Commentary III:64

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Long Roads in Small Steps

I’ve decided to trying something new this week. Something I’ve been wanting to do, for a while, which is write commentary in parallel with final editing (if not throughout the process.) So it’s fresher in my head, and to save time re-reading my work I’ve realized doing it. Even though I’m running just a bit behind. Only finished the complete draft Saturday night since the day was busy.

I’ve rushed through so much over the years, particularly in the early days, glossing over some of the repetition and tedium of a simpler phase of the characters lives. The Long Road keeps trying to be a chapter name, to move along where we are going, but getting diverted in the details of the moment. I do worry about some of those details, it’s an awkward balancing act, trying to tell a story that spans months, years, and thousands of miles. Repetition hard to avoid. Repetition is life. Telling the same recent stories over and over again to new people, but the risk of becoming boring to a reader perilous.

The Road Behind was a chapter name way back in early Book III, and we are now either in IV or V, depending how I some day break up this beast. I’m trying to look forward here, but it is always easy to be looking back. Which I guess brings back a quote from some chapters ago around being unsurprised of the road behind bearing some resemblance to that ahead. Kat will be Kat after all, and the rest too.

Not a lot to say about this opening transition, it’s brief, and perhaps could have been skipped. I still wanted to address that they just left, which, carries through this conversation pretty well. The disconnect of Katrisha saying this after days more of travel begged Etore to say something mildly snide, and to hang a lantern on it.

It also hints that not all is well as we wander out of paradise, and enter boarder lands with the most staunchly Clarion region of the world. On a path to the heart of that faith.

As we entered this town my first thought was that while trade caravans northward bound are in no way uncommon, sparse travelers are almost always going the other way. This created an immediate suspicion in my mind that any local official might hold.

The guard here started as a knight, but that felt forced, so she got demoted, however well she superficially presents. I liked giving her a more elaborate hairdo than Liora, which will contrast more complexly as we move along.

Alright, let me openly question, “Fate’s a fickle mistress,” “Fates a fickle mistress,” or “The Fates are fickle mistresses.”

The contraction of “Fate is” as a natural pattern of speech here buts up against possessive punctuation. “It is” is it’s while, its is possessive. The Fates however are archaic mostly neglected deities, such that the exclamation Fates, is not unlike God. They are however trinity-esque (past/present/future,) though rather than being the same thing exactly, they are simply hard to tell apart, or matters of scale. Of course since the Fates are plural by nature, but fate itself is still singular, and people short hand things, fate’s a fickle mistress still wants to occur, even though to be truly pedantic the plural then are is more technically correct within the world. Madness eh?

There is something to the latter, and maybe from Katrisha’s voice it’s most apt, so, I opted to go that way.

I will offer the note that the suspicious glance the guard gives Katrisha really evolved in meaning over the course of the text. At first it was simply the usual hair, or recognition of rumor, but deeper meaning was discovered as the character evolved.

The first evolution was a book and cover thing, as she softens from her more suspicious tone, we see that her prim appearance may be hiding someone not all that officious. I wrote the description, and then decided to chip away at the impression. Turning passing indecision into a decisive contrast.

Logistics can be a pain. I first wrote Wren walking past at the outset, then though he needed to deal with the horses, forgetting so did the others. Liora and Jake went unmentioned, but as I put Wren back at the start it felt apt to make mention of them. Thinking ahead to a future conversation also made for a minor distraction that I’m not sure about the flow of within the scene. I still like the call forward we will see probably next chapter.

Here in lies the rub. Outside of the Amberite network news travels as fast as people, and so for a while at least, no one is going to know what just happened along their path. Etore may be closed lips about her secrets, but she plays much faster and loose with others, if she sees gain. Putting people off guard, shocking them, she is always angling for advantage and distraction. Even when she’s in a playful mood… more on that later.

Kiannae immediately shut things down, and this only made the guard more suspicious. There is something of the old detective archetype in this woman, well put together, but very loose the moment you get to know her. By the book most of the time, till it suits her to be otherwise, and not much quibbling in between. The world moves on, and her job has made her good I suppose at reading people to a point.

Truly she’s no reason to guess Katrisha is as much of a braggart as Etore, and as circumspect as Kiannae, all the more apt to play coy about it. Until pressed directly, then she just lays out the facts for contrast. Pedantic distinctions that follow not withstanding.

The bartender enters here incidentally. A riff on my thoughts in previous commentary you might find these women behind bars often enough. Given they are already the ear to listen for many, it’s a natural conflation of roles, and work in the vices of pleasure that they’ve no qualms of accepting coin for. Her importance to the chapter grows exponentially just as things play out.

I never establish precisely how much gift Amy has, but middling is my intent. This in part plays off the guard’s comment. Most Red Sisters and healers know little to no magic though, so it is not entirely informative. Really just slightly a rib, and subtly plays on the ambiguity of “magic” in common nomenclature. Conversely Denny (first draft their names were reversed, but I didn’t like Amy for the guard, it’s a bit over cute) has about the same amount of gift, just by the by. No real importance in either of their gifts so they go unmentioned.

Their relationship dynamic however becomes central. Denny showing a possessive streak, and the local Red Sister putting her in her place, lets me introduce names since these characters seem intent to play a larger role in the chapter at least. I oft wonder where I picked up this habit of leading with description and dialogue, and trying to “naturally” introduce names. I think it’s an osmotic tendency, just a natural convention I picked up. I’ve never quite established if it’s good, or how important a pattern it is to maintain. I feel it lives a bit in the “Show not tell,” catagory.

Since I had swung from the initial impression this guard presents, offering an outside cause for her well done hair felt interesting. It establishes a very close bond, of ‘every morning,’ (which is not intended to be entirely literal, but people overstate like that.) I felt it contrasts with texture in where my head was already going, though precisely where is a journey.

I’ve discussed before that I plot in sort of a high/low level split. Scenes and chapters may have desired outcomes, but I rarely know quite what is happening going in. I put/or discover characters imperatives into a box, and let them mix. Details often cascading into much larger impacts.

Red Women are incredibly common in Lycia, you find them everywhere, and just /how/ red any given one is could be a much longer discussion. I establish this status for the bartender off previous commentary, and to play off an offhanded possessive by the guard. I could have made Amy (with some other name) a man, but I didn’t. It all would have worked, even with what we find out later, with only small modifications.

Even if Denny claims not to listen to rumors (how honest this is may be suspect,) a bartender is going to listen to damn near all of them. So out of the gate she identifies individuals she has heard of, off of hair that really can’t go without note. Katrisha’s condition and infamy are going to make her recognizable in most corners of the world by those who pay enough attention.

Combine the other figures present that have their own circle of rumor, it really seemed more likely than not for the woman to have something pointed to call the twins.

Katrisha’s whim of drink needed me to remind myself. Red is not the color, purple is, but it’s called red, much like Red Sisters. One could also probably attach some even stranger things to the history of the name. She’s fully aware of what this order leads to in a warning, but the bartender’s friendly advice spurs more conversation.

Katrisha’s remark wound up getting in at the end of her response. Initially I’d toyed with calling back to Book I, and Mercu’s comments about the “finest of the house.” Which I’ll presume was not related to this specific drink, just overly strong. Still, a more subtle nod still wanted to get in, even if the clearer reference in narration felt too forced.

This lead into flirtation. I’ve said it before, and probably will again, I do sometimes squirm over Katrisha’s success of finding interested women. Oft enough when she isn’t even looking. Her naturally flirtatious manner does help however. A Red Sister wanting to put out an overly clingy favorite spurs this on, and the rest of the chapter starts to unfold.

Indeed, Katrisha has many, and varied reputations, depending who’s spreading rumors, and how bawdy they are feeling like being in any given retelling. A Red Sister may have well heard some of the juicer exaggerations, and misrepresentations.

This strikes some uncomfortable notes for Katrisha, hence the blush, along with her larger swing in attitude that still clashes with her underlying tendencies.

Kiannae’s outro here was something of an ironic linguistic twist that came from Wren coming and going. The implication that when in Lycia, and other’s flirt gets old, its best you are the one who gets a room.

Etore’s character has evolved a lot over the years. It’s taken me time to embrace the edge of her character, and the fact she is not all that careful about the lives of others, not just their feelings. She’s very good at what she does, but an utter cheat in almost every way.

We’ve established before as well, that even if women are not quite her taste, she has no qualms taking any chance at a free drink, or meal, and that playing others for all their worth, is well within her standard operating procedures. She flirted with the guard a bit angling for a free drink, and needling Wren was a side benefit.

They have both very much been in their own moods since the parting remarks out of Duskwater, and this has played through the first part of the chapter in little ways. Etore’s however bored, as she plainly says. Wren’s attitude has grown old, and she’s not even having fun teasing him through it any more. Etore can be very careful with her words, when she wants to, but when she doesn’t, she may be one of the plainest characters in the books.

I really am happy for the occasion to show the dynamics of their relationship. They are not upside down, but decidedly sideways. Etore is brazen, and forward, and Wren while in no way blushing, can be temperamental about her manner. She pushes buttons as a default, and the closer you are to her, the worse she can be. Particularly when she just doesn’t get it.

It’s been danced around a bit, but this is the plainest it’s ever been said. Wren offered her an out back in Corinthia, because he already saw the danger Katrisha would come to fear, and Etore grabbed him, and took the risk any way. He could have her, any way he pleases, as anyone he pleases. He can command soldiers to back away, and grant speech and sight with a word. Yet he has shown time and again his dedication to free will.

In some ways this is Etore mirroring that night. He’s in, or he’s out. He won’t change her, presuming he didn’t play some hand in who she is. So, he’s either with a woman that has no qualms with demanding what she wants, when she wants it, that doesn’t always care if he’s being melodramatic, or he’s not. There was temptation to place some mirroring in here of the Saou, but it felt forced. At the same time, Etore makes it plain.

She doesn’t want a plaything, she wants a partner, and he can be difficult, and even boring, if he must, just so long as he has a spine. She has some passing experience with Sylvans, and some actual underlying bias. The idea they are part animal engrained in her, and for her it’s not judgmental, just that moment she’s pushing his buttons because she wants him riled, and a little angry.

In some ways I wonder a bit about getting very inebriated, in the old sense of liquid courage, before she goes to rile her gentle little man that might be more metaphysically dangerous to her than any lion, or soldier. Here we see a very plain glimpse of underlying Osyraen society in Etore’s psychology. Power, is everything to her, but she also understands how complex, and texture it is. She’s with Wren because he’s interesting, and powerful, and far more complicated than she might have first assumed. Because he’s dangerous, and harmless all at once.

There is a very broken quality underlying all of this.

Etore can also be very indirect, because she isn’t apt to be sentimental, or explain herself. She treats people she likes with a certain disrespect, because it’s honest, and that honesty is a compliment. Of course she treats people she doesn’t like with disrespect, because she doesn’t like them. That may be a little contrary, but so is she. There is however generally a different tone if one is paying close attention.

Etore has not lived a nice life, but has been blessed with skill, and the hand of fortune to avert the worst for herself. She’s seen the worst though. She knows how dark the world is, and if you aren’t tough enough to handle her bluntest, and sharpest side, you aren’t strong enough to be anywhere near her for longer than you are useful, and or paying.

It was interesting to dig in a moment on her true thoughts about Wren. In some ways her attraction to him is very much because others are, and a recognition of value. She does lean to a certain kind of pretty, but Wren is really too much, to the point of making her jealous. Not that most men wouldn’t find her the more attractive, side by side, but she’s partly having fun.

Wren on the other side has something of what I would never call in book, but traditionally is referred to as a ‘glamor.’ His presence is naturally attractive, and this can actually be repellent to some. This has been alluded to over the years. Celia is only attracted to women, and yet, there was something about Wren, more than just being less man like.

Perhaps there is something very much about this that explains Katrisha’s success, and indeed back to the larger context, most gifted. Gift itself I continue to imagine is simply attractive, and Wren is vastly more gifted than most. Which adds some more humor to an oft alluded peacock analogy. Intentionally flaring with gift to instill desire would indeed be a mating display. A flirtation. Wren is however still a very pretty bird regardless.

Etore however wants the cat with claws, though she still calls him a kitten diminutively. In some ways she’s echoing behavior she’s scene, and how her mentor/friend was treated by one of the power players of the Osyraen underworld. This is likely conscious in that she does want to rile him, but unconscious that she is playing out the same pattern.

This has just been a very sexy chapter, but I’m mostly comfortable with it. I can’t, and shouldn’t try too hard to escape the underlying nature of my work. We jump right from Wren and Etore, to Katrisha indulging fool inclinations, that she is becoming ever more self-conscious of.

Mechanical clocks have only ever been passingly implied in the world. They did get invented, and it’s a mixture with enchanted ones. Many are hybrids in some form, but this is truly a mechanical model, probably not a bit unlike a grandfather clock. It honestly exists, and some other things happen on the whim of having described the house as being somewhat shop like. I ran with it.

At some point before wandering off with this woman, she did learn Katrisha’s name, and so when Katrisha’s slightly dazed frame of mine bore comment, this just struck me as quite humorous. Cat got your tongue? or Kat got your tongue? Opposite meaning, but since it’s a question, still means about the same. A probably never intended, but odd double entendre did occur to me as a woman delivers this line to an intended amorous partner however… and I’ll leave it at that. *cough*

This scene stumbles quite suddenly off the rails as a free form train of thought puts Katrisha down a path she did not mean to be thinking. She’s feeling foolish, and so the old likening hits her like a ton of bricks suddenly, and the fact that she left, and lost Andria to the foolishness, and now is throwing herself into the arms of yet another stranger is just too much. Certainly in her inebriated state where filters, and determination give way.

It’s nice again to catch that almost therapist like aspect to what Red Sisters are. Sure, most of the time people come to them for one thing, but there’s a lot of broken to deal with in human nature. We’ll learn she has more experience with that than many.

I’m not sure how I feel about the call back we make her to Book II. This is very much meant to echo the sentiment of everything old is new again, and not quite putting pieces together, even as others fall into place, and so does she.

I’ve long daydreamed of a glass top bedroom atop a single story, or story and a half turret. Not sure why. Not the most convenient thing, but delightfully quaint. Here on the northern Lycian border, it’s not too temperamental, and perhaps a bit fancy. It begs a lot of questions about the stature of the woman to own this place, and this indeed leads to interesting explinations.

I never I think established the night Katrisha refers to in the abstract, sending after conversation down many tracks. She’s had that drink three times now I believe, unless I’m forgetting one, and maybe she is. The first time she walked off with Tock, and got lost in a fuzzy little head just built for skritches. Which having grown up with an eternal kitten (Mar) was a very natural pattern to fall into.

Katrisha is very much a woman of mind and body, one for the moment pleasantly relaxed, she instead delights in trying to catch the woman missing something, after pressing her on specifics.

Natural conversation tends to easily branch, and spiral away from topics, but if they are interesting someone will come back to the point. Katrisha distracts from her more pertinent question with catching herself the mention of another woman. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, but though Lycia has been an education, there is a certain natural reaction unguarded.

We get an explanation for how Amy came by her home. Which is actually intended (some more personal details aside) to be a very common sort of arrangement for many more well to do traders. In larger estates of lower royalty she might be called a chamberlain, but custodian might suffice, any benefits on the side. She however is still curious, and wanting to get the topic off her, so presses again for meaning about Katrisha’s opening statement.

Katrisha is still a bit like a flag in the breeze. Her own off handed remark dragging her back into the sorrow of loss, and foolishness. She’s offered a shoulder to cry on, but manages not to this time. We didn’t see every moment with Adria and Katrisha, and on some evening we didn’t, their activities might have gotten a bit more light hearted and foolish. In an effort to take Katrisha’s mind off what she could not change.

Some of this section pushed and pulled as the dialogue evolved, and I explored the life of a ‘bad’ Red Sister. That she does not live to the highest ideals of her order. Getting attached in a jealous sort of way, and yet still being at heart not monogamous, in part driven by faith, but also who she is. Telling the two apart can be hard mind you.

We learn about her relationship with Denny as well, as Katrisha pries. She likes to know the people she’s with, but it’s dangerous because she so easily falls in love, or at least some ‘misplaced’ adoration.

From the moment Katrisha mentioned the Torta it started percolating that there would not be so much of a surprise in this. Certainly she’d heard the rumors, but they were also legends long before they showed themselves to the world. The topic constantly derailing itself sort of sealed the deal, as Katrisha accuses her of dodging the subject, and a reason wins out.

So, the bargain of a Torta revealed, Katrisha is left to face again the odd mishmash of things. Deny is probably two decades older. Gifted enough it doesn’t really show well, like trying to tell the difference between a twenty year old, and a twenty five year old, not someone close to forty. After all, she and Denny ‘run that town.’ She’s no girl.

All this however is a bit trivial to a Torta prophecy that has lead to that night. Not that anything seems to be on the woman’s mind in the way of plans. It was fun to conversely question what foxes know of what makes humans happy, on the other side of the divine and the mortal perspectives. Different at least, if not on other levels, other planes.

I said before Denny could have been a man, and maybe I should have gone that way for variety, I didn’t feel like it though. The only contrasting detail being a mother unwilling to give him up, and no need for falling in love with another cloister child. Since six-seven is generally when children are separated from their mothers in Clarion cloister society.

I let myself make a nod to a song I’ve had on heavy rotation I mentioned last week. I take the words however, and run with their simple vague narrative as they struck me. It is this sentiment of being born in the dark, and knowing one is made of light that makes me sometimes feel it could be the best anthem yet overall for the story, as trite as it may sound.

Other curious meanings one can apply to words however take us out of the scene, as Katrisha’s wavering mood finds humor in quaint synonyms, and inspiration to return to other activities.

From the same album mentioned last week, and again referenced above, this one eventually breaks into lyrics that carry through some of the theme, of looking too the sky “when lost inside my heart.” There are so many things about this album that catch so well on the themes I’ve established, even the styling of violin blended with modern electronic dance music patterns that Lindsey is known. Since I am writing this very classical, old world styled world, that is more aware of modern ideas of science, even if they’ve missed out on a lot of technological innovation, instead relying on enchanting, and the bottle neck of gifted.

Denny putting herself in Katrisha’s way suddenly brings it all together, and while I was uncomfortable with some aspects of the chapter, everything falls in place for me. The Torta’s deal, why Katrisha factored into it. It was never about her, but a move to try and fix something broken she had once stumbled into. Not every life leads her to the same doors, and even as she later implies, the determinism is innately dubious. The thing is potentials still exist even as others move around them.

A book on a shelf might have been being held up by another, or precariously balanced. It’s potential energy is still partly expended as other things change around it. It wasn’t new, it wasn’t a virtual particle emerging… necessarily. That could still be a trigger, maybe, or many. Repeated kicks of electrons swirling, a minor quake, tidal stress. The trigger may vary but the potential is there.

Applying this to humans is suspect, but if they find themselves in the same place, the odds are high they are very similar people, with similar potentials. Other things might have happened, maybe, but if the circumstances don’t vary, the potentials are still mostly there.

Denny is still a girl with some scars of her past, but also where they clashed with her later upbringing. More Lycian than Clarion there are traces underneath, and over reaches perhaps. Going from a world where women are an underclass, to one where they are on top. I very much imagine a certain insecurity that becomes bravado. Indeed, not unlike a man, and I think maybe thats part of why I prefer her as a woman.

Katrisha has finally got the message though, in all of it, and I’ll admit I borrowed a sentiment here from the show Dark I may have mentioned before. I don’t go quite so far to determinism as the show implies, but I think it does resolve some larger questions. In a purely conventional sense one tends to look for either a universe of pure chaos, or order. Everything is either random, or straight cause and effect. There is no free will.

I imagine, my conceit, truly is that the flowing of forces against each other between order and chaos, the non linear nature of time permits free will. More abstractly though this works with the ability to recognize patterns, to speculate, but it is more ambiguous. Are we free, or are our lives predetermined based on a chain of events that happened before, even as different interactions collide. Billiard balls in predictable Newtonian motion, or even just some chaos and indeterminism thrown on. The illusion of freedom, or the reality of choice?

Katrisha’s heart for all the pain that intruded on her pleasant evening, is a little more healed for it. She can’t be sure, and doesn’t quite say it so, but she imagines she really has played a larger role her. Not to take free will from others, but to give them the choice, to try and be happy one way or another, not be stuck in the same recurring mistakes.

Even Liora’s spiteful sneer can’t touch her here. So she is entirely cordial. Who’s to say if the woman is free, certainly not mired in other’s choices, and beliefs, but they are hers. It’s not Katrisha’s concern if she sorts that out, and all she can do, is accept her own realizations. That we are all born into the dark, looking for light outside ourselves. She won’t mirror the spite, the ‘dark’ back at her.

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