The Appetites of Wyrms
Arthurian legends says that a wise, and chosen king devised a round table, that there would be no head to quarrel over. Of course this only works until the king takes a seat. What a round table does a bit better than one long and narrow, is provide an easier way for a great many to talk to one another. I arrived at the round table for the number of guests, but thought of the rest in retrospect.
As I have made a habit with complex seating arrangements, this lives in my source file:
I could have left a few more out, minor a role as they play, but decided to roll with the larger company. It is implied by Mayari that all present are practically family, and even if they do not know each other, their baggage abounds.
Sund’s people victims of Osyrae, his presence perhaps further a show for his sisters sake. Taloe’s presence a gift, of uncertain import. Mayari implies potential in Dahlia, though she does not say a word. Ambrush is likely there for reasons other than telling a story Rihonae could have herself. A line was lost about her liking to hear others tell the tale, more than to speak herself. It felt too forced.
A dark dinner conversation, and I feel that I need to more deftly handle actual eating in some future edit, but time is what it is, and I’d rather use it getting ahead on things. I won’t deny I am uncomfortable, giving Rihonae the history I have, her at once casual, and rageful discussion of such topics. The burdens she has born so suddenly reframing her.
Though we do rightly come to the quandary of repairing a world beset by the ability to take by force, to pillage, and yes, rape. That these women are all too aware of how they may appear the monsters, and that the path of putting them down, is one that runs a terrible risk.
I’ve oft worried that Book I is in many ways incomplete. There are so many mysteries that are only really answered by Etore’s story, and other things that happened in Osyrae. I don’t want to imply I have her whole life cleanly mapped out, but a lot of key things that were always going on behind the scenes, and far away that impacted Avrale. The antagonists in her life as much darker, and complicated as she is compared to the others. It bares mentioning that Avrale is in many ways a safe haven. In part because of high mountains, but also one could surmise by divine influence.
One small awkward thing in the story of Redmane, is that we get only the rest of the story, but not the conclusion already revealed previously, as Kiannae distracts the conversation with her realization. I admit, Lunka’s mother being rabid is a retcon, that I did some research on. While rabies can be transmitted by a mother’s milk, it’s a low incidence. (It was implied they were still nursing somewhat.) The primary risk is going to be the saliva licking them, or if the mother becomes too far gone, and bites them. This was inspired in the moment as Rihonae refers to Cadith as a rabid wolf, and I rolled with it, because it’s interesting, and explains some things that always simply were, even if a bit odd. Very small plot holes can actually become opportunities.
Now… what becomes more peculiar is the implication that might never find a place, so I’ll mention it. What if the bear did not start dire. What if the potent form of rabies that could effect a dire creature, did not start such. What if it was simply once a bear with rabies, that bumbled into the path of one touched by prophecy, and a dire wolf. Take the implication as far as you please.
Mayari, I think is shaping up well as I have long intended her. Aloof, wise, and uncomfortable. It has not been clearly stated, but she is considered by legend to the most powerful of seers to ever live. Some consider her capricious, but she is as clear eyed of uncertainty, as any who have seen the history of it all.
There is so much one could dig into in this section, but I think I’ll let the arguments speak more for themselves. The destructive cycles, and the questioning of the coddling of a broken world rightfully uncomfortable, for my heroes still are a bit naive. For all they’ve seen, it is in large the candy coated restrained world of gifted saving graces, and largely polite societies discussions of evils in abstract. Scars healed, peaces thinly maintained. Will deftly altered, rather than broken in screaming agony.
Something that does not get addressed is a small conflict that is simply a lack of information. Early in Book I, and largely throughout it is implied the Sylvans have kept to themselves for centuries. They did however have a civil war, and particularly in the north, where Osyraen blood still heavily lingered in the land, there were refugees that fled. They were not a great number, but they were quietly captured by Osyrae, and added to their little-spoken-of, pool of slaves. An affront to Council law, as implied here, but pointedly ignored, and not even spoken of much in the Council itself, nor recorded widely.
It was implied they consider even the Stormborn children of the Storm Queen another species. Laurel was not in the circles where he might have heard of such things, and literally, had turned his eyes to the sky, trying to escape human troubles. His perspective is not completely authoritative, other than not being mostly right. At the time he spoke these words the children of such refugees were all still young. Word had not much spread, because they were being bread with old stock the Council, again, quietly ignored the presence of.
The nature of Mayari occurred to me through the writing of this chapter, and has been a slowly growing implication. The first we saw were in the Court of Storms, half ascended dragons. Then Selene happened, and Selene informs a deeper understanding of the role Mayari is to play. There are many possible implications of the phrase ‘the dragon who lies,’ and I think as I’ve grown to write this world it is unwise to look for one interpretation. The nature of prophecy is often manifold. Even that it oft rhymes implied as a manifestation of how it echos. Still, that said, yes, Katrisha and Mayari here are speaking to one of my oldest intentions, and the one as I recall I had in mind when I first wrote the line.
So yes, Mayari is as old as the prophecy at least. Already on my mind when I warned of schemes. Even the use of lie is suspect though. It has been interpreted as the dragon that did not kill Katrisha. That it lay in the mountains, that it lied in interpretation, not having actually killed her. Mayari lies in her appearance, she is actually an ascendant dragon in near fully human form, as Selene now is. She says she has, and will lie, for her ends, though she implies they are noble, can they be trusted? She schemes, but as phrasing might vary, so too can meaning. It has in translations, and dialect variance over the centuries. The earliest copies of the Black Book were transcribed by hand, before Sylvia invented the process of spell copy, so the work exists with slight and compounded changes. Transcription errors.
Let me get meta a moment. Lets say that a one sets up a situation as proposed. Thousands of years of history in a loop. Then lets for arguments sake treat prophecy as what it is, part of a functional system… susceptible to transcription errors. Imagine that even if these errors are random, their success is not. The success of each copy is likely to be determined by its usefulness in the existence of the prophecy. That is a selection pressure on information used by the system in its propagation. So, it would seem likely that the prophecy would be capable of evolving to suit the pressure it is under… but also to contain mostly aesthetic mutations that do not strongly impact its success.
Fear for, or fear the schemes… The epigraph is how I often remember it, even though as Cassandra spoke it she did not say for. Should one fear her schemes, or fear for her schemes? Could almost have the opposite meaning. I also introduce here another possible implication. The coming of age, rather than the coming of an age. As we close the section on the suggestion of an Age of Queens, perhaps those who might lose their power will weep, and gnash their teeth. Its a subtle change though, for there will be strife, if the world is to be overthrown.
I openly discuss all this just because its interesting in retrospect to consider how such things might work, and prophecy is suspect. A recording of a perception, subject to interpretation, both as written, as copied, and understood. How it comes about in the first place is implied to be a mess, and should be. Consider how accurate human memory is. It’s really not. We transcribe primarily through analogues, and associations. Prophecy must in some sense be overlaid, it is outside influence on familiar biological processes, that must patch into existing structures to be observed. That has to be messy, and likely highly prone to wild levels of ascription. Colored by associations, connections, and past memories that may have little to do with the prophecy itself. Emerging in dreams, amidst metaphorical imagery of the day that may contaminate the whole.
It was a hard decision between the epigraph and title of this chapter, and the next. To mix and match, or which comes first? To lead, or comment I suppose, but which is which… I ultimately decided to mix the two.
How much does one trust anything said, by a creature who’s promised to lie? Mayari has never had a clearly defined morality in my head, only a manner of operation, and schemes to her own benefit. She is as apt to surprise me as the reader. I feel I know her, and her voice fairly well, but she is a creature that delights in being enigmatic, as seers often do.
The phrase ‘pinnacle in the hole’ I hope lands well. As noted in certain places the 1st card of each house of the Arcana is also called the pinnacle, and so it is the ace by convention in variants for games. What specific game of Fates the term comes from who knows, but she is a seer, who has been around.
Mayari implies things that have been sort of hanging out in plain sight, but perhaps not overly obvious, for a long while. At the same time she calls out the folly of any literal reading. A shadow is not what cast it, nor a reflection, what was reflected. No mater how tangible. All things exist in relation to one another, whatever their similarities, or entanglements. Though it is fair to consider if one looks at time backwards, can the shadow play a role in what cast it? The light that comes from some infinite distance, or shines towards the source.
Regardless, yes, there is a connection through the chain to be had between various figures and the gods of myth. Mayari also casually says a lot of other things that may have been implied, but of course, everything she says must be suspect, however sensible, and the best way to lie, is to drown it out in truths. To build trust, with reliable information. All at once Mayari seems apt to revel in her untrustworthiness. Which itself begs a suspicion that it is a manipulation, an attempt to charm. Playing the affable miscreant.
It’s been covered, I’m fairly sure, here and there, that dragons were foreseen as stories, and myths before Roshana’s ascension, but not everything was a perfect match. I’ve a certain fondness for the word Wyrm, and it felt apt to conflate it with worm, which lead me to what I suppose will be next weeks epigraph, that echos this weeks title.
The early Thebian myths I’ve decided cast a perhaps more sand-worm like creature, and I opted to draw a parallel with more Norse myths, to jive along with the Fafnir-esque human origins of dragons in the world. Though perhaps they were limbed creatures. Indeed it perhaps bares repeating that many dragons make up a portion of their diet from stone, because they need silicates not found in living prey.
Mayari has established her power, and conversely her disinterest in much of the way of direct displays of it. Has echoed Rihonae in pronouncing her preference for the shadows and subterfuge. Claims she could ascend into a full dragon if she pleases, but perhaps, has seen the folly in the direct route. If she has seen all that she claims. In many ways these things speak perhaps more loudly to Katrisha than any direct assertions could. She is utterly suspect on the surface, but a closer look could raise doubts, that she is an enemy.
She backs off, having proved her point, and walks away to find Etore lurking. I like closing on the thought that Etore is the one Katrisha chose to trust to tell of this meeting, and to ask to observe. Of course, presuming her gifts would keep her hidden, and allow for backup was also a factor. If Mayari knew indeed what she claims in closing, who can say.
I say this very much in retrospect, and not to imply the moral bearing of Mayari, but she does wind up peculiarly filling a certain archetype. The implication of a serpentine dragon, a creature that works in manipulation, and miss-leading implications. All at once a promise of rebirth has been laid out. Ah, cultural influences, how sneaky they can be.