A Wyrm in the Roots
Late commentary this week because I hemmed and hawed about what I wanted to say. The advantages of commentary are the constant re-examination of characterization, and process, the down side is it can be a minefield of saying too much, or further compounding sources of discomfort, and I often do not write from the comfortable.
Still, starting on a lighter note.
I’ve been really torn up in a good-ish way about titles lately. The wyrm being an interesting addition linguistically, to what was perhaps implied before. The older, and regional myths of dragons. The wyrm here being used to evoke a peculiar thought. The yeard, was roughly the measure above a man’s waist from the ground, in Ancient Thevies. The yeardwyrm were wyrms of about this length, and they were said to follow the outlines of things, ever measuring them, to flee humans, but always lurk at the edges. Waiting for one to turn their back.
The Spider and the Looking Glass is one of the sequels to the Mouse, the Witch, and the Window. Probably the second, but I’ll leave that vague. After whenever I implied the window is shattered.
This is the epigraph that kind of went with the previous title, and the title of the previous chapter might have been Beneath a Clockwork Sky (Sun), but instead, with humor I found it sensible to say ‘Upon’ instead. Since they are laying above the mechanism, for what winds up a long, meandering conversation.
Ok, so the song has been in the works for a while. It may get a few subtle drops as background earlier in the books during later editing. Something easily missed, or not identified. Helps explain the story of Katrisha spreading far, and wide.
Here it is, though I’m not sure it’s final:
O’ Laeune twas a ghostly watcher,
high ‘bove the rolling moor,
an’ two riders there were a riding,
come to the mountains’ door,
twice a bonny a lass twere these,
raven hair blown long at the back,
emerald eyes bright and shining,
long a pale an’ winding path,
up a road but a river of moonlight,
run down from the mountains’ hall,
polished stones brightly lining,
where waters once had flowed,
an’ on in the night they pressed,
where few before dared tread,
unflinching from their fate,
when the wise should surely dread,
For Laeune twas a ghostly watcher,
high ‘bove the forest floor,
an’ two riders there were a riding,
on through the mountain’s door,
lasses proud an’ fair twere these,
their mirror e’er at hand,
O’ suitors were to come a courting,
yet not a one they’d had,
for the first to come to calling,
bore an old black book in hand,
oh Fate twas a courtly caller,
who wanted more than lands,
that to claim a twin that night,
was a story long foretold,
in a mentor’s foolish wisdom,
forgotten long before,
For Laeune twas a ghostly watcher,
high ‘bove the mountain-side,
two riders ceased their riding,
there upon the hill they’d climbed,
down midst a midnight hollow,
shining scales glinted slow,
a dragon slumbered sweetly,
heavy breaths far below,
at last two crept most quietly,
up close to the riven cleft,
there into darkness peered,
where others would have left,
an’ half or more too bold,
a girl shed her fool robe,
if a sister chided quietly,
O’ only two would know,
For Laeune twas a ghostly watcher,
where bare skin met her light,
in not but she was born,
down a girl went to fight,
in not but darkness cloaked,
in not but spells that broke,
great furry to end a man,
not a man,
to a dragon but a poke,
there embroiled she did dance,
as she had with no man,
though little to be seen,
as she vanished once again,
twixt sister’s magic hidden,
striking from the dark,
the will of a moon clad warrior,
as each would play their part,
For Laeun twas a ghostly watcher,
‘bove a noble daughter’s war,
as more riders came a riding,
up through the mountains’ door,
there hurried to the rescue,
of she prophecy had foretold,
a twin born so darkly fated,
to that night to be no more,
an with carless step they came,
kings men proud and tall,
an’ one who went a looking,
a priest would surely fall,
there watch a bonny lass,
barely dance with death,
oh twere it not for him,
the story might be less,
O’ Laeun was a ghostly watcher,
as a fool tumbled in,
and a girl bore no mind,
to save her own damn skin,
swept from a hill she went,
another pale moon cast to the sky,
an’ fell like a glimmer of starlight,
and as one did not fly,
oh the stories you might hear,
of girls half or more too bold,
what Fates might promise,
may not as thought unfold,
an’ though a twin did perish,
nay each girl did survive,
one with hair like moonlight,
and the other black as night,
for what did the stories promise,
that a dragon it seemed had lied,
and now the stars have changed,
as men would wail and cry.
an’ Laeun is a ghostly watcher,
upon a world we no longer know,
an’ some would look to a fool girl,
for a path forward, us to show.
The end of this version is extended, or altered from the original, based on further events. Such a bardic tale one imagines is apt to evolve, not become set to a single static form. Many famous old songs, and poems have versions. Consider the inspiration bellow, which came from a poem, but the song omits a verse that implies the tragedy might have been a betrayal by a jealous party though Tim is otherwise unmentioned.
Which is a rather dark story, but very pleasantly composed.
The song came up by accident, Etore admission how she felt about Myrn’s books lead into Katrisha musing what they would write about her, and Etore brought up the song. There is actually no ret-con at all in what Etore says about books here, this has been an intended aspect of her early childhood. There are a number of scenes written set around her adoptive mother coming home, fixing dinner, asking about her reading. She was being prepared for eventual futures, for who she might one day be called to be, and to have a solid head on her shoulders about the world.
The natural chain of conversation unfolded, and they’ve grown a bit used to everything always being so important, that it just strays from the intractable quandaries to humanity. That said, Etore is dodging around clear answers, and Katrisha takes the distraction, more than once.
I go a lot of places in this conversation, some less comfortable than others, but I let it be. The tangle of characterizations, social constructs, and motivations at work can leave me surprised where I wind up.
On one uncomfortable topic, that really shouldn’t be, and yet… It’s Mayari’s fault. I really should not be surprised where that scene went last week. Mayari has spent centuries learning to place herself close to the powerful, she is a seer, and so she saw right through a foible in one of the ongoing tension points, that I realized quickly would be the case. No, Kat did not count herself. Such a numerical flaw has been considered cropping up later, but in sections of the story that will already be jammed full of other stuff. So, I let Mayari have her little win, as well as calling out that it may mean nothing, or something entirely other than the great import placed upon an arbitrary notion.
Why sexuality was placed so centrally to the creation of the Assassins is a bit of a spiders nest of social commentary turned sideways. The seed I’ve mentioned goes back to the history of the word, as ascribed by dictionaries, even if there is some suspect historical defamation going on. That seed however grew in the soil of many other influences, and cannot be separated from a very (appropriately) impolite term in modern feminist thought. Abbreviated thusly, FFT. One can guess the impolite word, and no, I don’t think terms for impolite things have any particular reason to be polite, I’m just being coy.
I took it literally. The Assassins as such are a commentary both on what they could be perceived as, and a what if, of things going wrong, and unintended consequences. People creating something that cannot be controlled, with the arrogance of thinking they have absolute control. Though let me not imply an unwillingness to explore the appeal of the darker sides. The dichotomy of virtue and vice we place upon outsiders attempting to affect change upon their world, with the tools at their disposal. The relatability sometimes even of caricatures of stereotypes.
If the world is cast in the shadow of ideas, the reasoning becomes, ideas will take form, but their reality may be different. Molds, and roles into which people fall, that were left in society, because stories, and histories provided. Take literally the powers in the oft unspoken genesis of these antagonists I place before my travelers, but not the trappings that speak to their objectified position.
This new group is cut very much from the same cloth, but turned a bit around. Ultimately an exploration of these women trying to take a place of power in their world, not second guess who they are, or embrace being. I say relatability because however much such characters are often crafted to the male gaze, they also become an outlet for women as well, or those with more complex identities, and there is a deeper struggle to be had. The dynamics of beauty and power, and the true enemy is the narrow niche, into which the only presentation is an unrealistic ideal. So, I pick apart the ideals, and let them be a bit more realistic, within the bounds of a world where more things are possible.
The Assassins being created by the Clarions is precisely the sort of thing that happens. Whether its terrorist groups that rise up to bite the hand that fed them, or the prevalence of crime in disenfranchised social strata that know that the law is not on their side, or the abject rebellion that may arise in those who are born in their nature, never to fit the laws of a faith. When morality is applied inequitably to the human condition, the human condition adapts to far more readily dismantle the chains placed upon it.
There really is no denying that the clashing of men and women in this story is drawn very much from the fabric of our own history, but altered to an idea. That is, what if women actually had the advantage? (Even if slight.) Had become downtrodden out of having failed to adapt at a single crucial point in history, and fallen under a wave of male aggression. There systemically kept back from the competition. Except where they weren’t. So a few bastions have hung on, and spurred social methodologies, in surrounding societies to more militant lengths. That then are answered inevitably in kind.
An allegory at times if not for own history, our own current circumstances. Where the rise of technology as a great equalizer, and the inclusion of women into social power, has opened the question of whether women are not actually, potentially, the better adapted gender, for a more advanced society. Are the structures of patriarchal competition becoming more destructive than helpful? Men feeling attacked, striking back against women seeking equity, raises the question of is the patriarchy not simply wrong, but backwards. The ‘feminization’ of society, arguably real, if one defines the masculine by outmoded, animalistic, dominance standards. That largely define what proven advantages males have.
If you think I mean to imply this does not cut both ways… Let me remind of the sheer and audacious ambition I’ve portrayed from female antagonists. I think I’ve said before, one can only put so much weight on 1/46th of a genome, particularly when so far as we can tell, the Y has very little in actual useful instructions, and most of them are repetitions. In fact there are a few mammals (mostly rodents) that get by without a Y entirely.
This carries through to an idea that is oft scoffed at, but under the right conditions, perhaps not as unviable as it appears. Gendered warfare, is selected against, because it gets rather emphatically in the way of repopulation. The primary adaptation that arrises against it is, really the primary adaptation of social control, submission. It has little gendered about it at all. When one is taking a beating (and in no position to respond,) bow down, and submit. It increases survival, which then increases reproduction. Of course so does being the one beating down rivals. It’s a delicate balance.
So, in all irony, humanity punched some of the violence out of itself. Maybe just a bit more out of the women, who got less advantage out of fighting back… reproductively… but if women had the potential to win the fight, then, particularly in a complex social creature, it becomes a not entirely unviable strategy. After all, men, are all too aware very few of them are needed to sustain the species. There is an ironic logistical consideration that itches beneath these rebellions. If one wants to reduce violence in the world, suppress those prone to violence. Violently, if need be. Wars to end wars. The quest for global hegemony. Irony abounds.
People are more easily controlled through feelings than reason. Reason is harder, humans are still animals, and abstract thought appears to be a painfully new invention. Feelings are stronger, and even when reason wins, lets be honest with ourselves, its oft because it feels right. Animal motivations are a perennial historical short cut around reasoning with people (and people are prone to being unreasonable.) Fear and sex are simply the strongest go-to options, because they are rooted at the most critical junctures of ‘success,’ (survival) of any similar species.
Fear, is the aversion to death, and injury. Necessary for survival. Conducive to having reproductive chances. Sex… is necessary for reproduction in sexual species, which are typically not immortal, and have a narrow window in which to propagate. These are potent motivators and foils, and were selected for because they are successful. So, looking at how they have been used through our history, and presuming a world prone to exaggerating problems via magic/gift. I give you the result, both for commentary, and I think realism… to an extent.
Honestly I belive a greater failing in proper application of the powers of the world of Thaea, is in the shortfall of industrialization, and advanced magical application. That is compared to the prevalence of powerful cults centered around persistent social issues. In a world where direct emotional influence is possible, and bodies can be altered, healed, long lives exist. I take this superficial primitivism as a side effect of history, and tradition, and show outliers that skip ahead to what’s possible, but that people aren’t trusting. Magic is volatile, and the volatile is better for short lived things.
Take airships. These are not only possible, they were a thing, a longish time ago in our history. They are easier than airplanes, but particularly easier to make using hydrogen, and hydrogen is… problematic. Gasoline is very flammable also, which is kind of how it is useful. Volatility can be a terrible knock against potential. Gifted have magic, and enchanters have made quality of life potentially approaching the middle of last century, but without a lot of the baggage of industry, and pollution. So, I reason that society was held back, and pushed forward, in very different ways. After all, the interests of enchanters and mages is not to give the ungifted a level playing field. Only to make them more productive.
Clarion society starts at the familiar structure of repression of volatile human nature through faith. Keep men from going to constant war with each other by putting them in tight hierarchies, and giving them the right to marry one woman who will have only his children. Women get a stable society, in which they have no power to speak of, but very little risk, so long as they are ‘good.’ Of course as a social contract, not a divinely ordained one, and actually taking the idea of pleasure seeking itself as the enemy, they experiment with divesting entirely from this model. Marriages for love, and even the reproduction of less desirable men are both quite un-pragmatic. So rose the White Women, who never marry, and have children at an optimized rate, for selected men. Married to their faith, and purpose. The assassins, in origin (until it all went so wrong,) a counter push, to keep the less desirable men placated. More an opportunistic faction, than a well reasoned part of the faith, but excused with time and prominence.
Lycian society is an ascendant matriarchy that rose from the ashes of one slowly subsuming into the surrounding culture. There was an understanding that their primary problem would be keeping men from causing problems. When Clarion thought started introducing faith based patriarchal ideas more deeply into society it threatened the fragile stability of the Queen. Sylvia Grey came along to offer a solution. Men, in her estimation, were mostly simple creatures with an overriding drive. She saw this drive repressed in most women, and sought to stabilize society, by giving both sides what they were denied. Women power, and men sexually available women. While the faith wound up coopting the name of the land, the land, embraced the faith as a shield against outside Clarion influence.
Osyraen society is rife with rigid hierarchical dominance, and shifting allegiances and power plays. They are the ‘oldest,’ and most powerful human society. They feel justified that they should rule the world, but have been foiled by countless circumstances through history. Including their own ambitions, as siblings set upon each-other after Osir’s death. They are only superficially patriarchal, by route of ambition and norms. It has become tradition only to have a king, and ironically the one woman who was positioned to break that tradition, was too ambitious. As Rihonae has told us.
Of course it’s possible Napir is the oldest society, and stands as a more refined mirror of Osyrae. Dominance is actually rife in that land, but is almost entirely social, and political capital. We’ve only seen their most polished face, but I don’t imagine good natured brawling is unheard of in lower society there. Just don’t go for the kill, or use weapons. Social maneuvering, and social climbing are however preferred. If one want to fight, then the storm monks might be the path. After all, they emphasize doing no harm, however energetic their combat.
Between these nations I see a lot of difference arising out of environment. Both are harsh environments, but Osyrae has more plenty in food, and natural resources. Dangerous animals, are more easily defeated. The elements, the winter, and cold, require more organization, and cooperation. Less wasted in petty squabbles.
All these lands have adapted differently, gone through cycles. Found ways of dealing with problems in the human-animal, that are more or less sustainable. It’s all coming apart however. Even Lycia is facing a rebellion, born of a rejection of allowing the evils around them to continue. Napir is stable primarily for their isolation, buffered by reasonable nations, and their primary might, restrained to their own land. No one can challenge the Queen, but nor can she challenge the world.
I step back to all this wider context, to bring it back around. Fear, sex, hunger, pleasure. The most basic drives have immense power. They are used to control, or placate individuals, and societies. Both positively, and negatively. The Assassins were made by pushing women to the brink in abject subservience. Cognitive dissonance, and chemical means, used to alter behavior in extremes that bore an unexpected fruit. At fist even went unnoticed, because they were made perfect servants to their lords. Good at blending in until needed, good at being precisely where they needed to be, and when.
So yes, all this to explain what Katrisha realizes was the hidden message in Mayari’s revelations. She made herself. Her own torn up emotions, combined with her potential, and health conditions, with the fact she was already part of the powers in play, she was predisposed to find what others found, under different circumstances.
However others have found the shadowed place, we still observe that they get there under other circumstances as well. There is a cheat, in the break through, but that breakthrough is ultimately unrelated to what lies underneath. This naturally connected as I thought about it to the history implied for Etore. Love and hate in abject conflict over the same person. She had developed the talent for blending in, and going unseen, this made it much easier, for her to find this place under such split influence.
Katrisha references a growing awareness of a world that has slowly formed for me in the abstract as I’ve written O&E. A “first world” only in the perspective of it is the direct progenitor of the current cycle. Really, ultimately Meliae’s world, but also her daughter Kitren’s (a). It’s really not clear, and in Katrisha’s estimation perhaps meaningless. A world far removed from the one they now inhabit, other than the basic players.
As the conversation outlines, everything is suspect. Wren, Kia, and Kat all have very different hallmarks of being more than mortal. In many ways, Kat has proven the less dramatic in her actual deeds. More so in her presentation, the show woman of the lot. Certainly her tearing up the staff before the Council in Mordove has lent some renewed credibility in the eyes of the world. Songs about her, and her twin. Stories about fighting dragons naked, and old prudish men in no more. The goddess of Eastroad, and so on. It keeps up, but with the boy who flew, and laid a challenge none could take? The woman who presumptively raised a unfathomably large tree in Napir, ended the blight, and keeps the dead as companions? Who the Storm Queen feared, and exiled from her lands.
Ultimately the question remains if one can trust the intentions of their captors. Etore round about has implied that they can trust them, to look after their own interests, just like her. Less expressed, is the idea she has decided her interest, lies in these people she’s chosen as family. Even if she probably rolled her eyes during Kiannae’s speech.
Katrisha’s condition has found a way to insert a more gradual progression, and I’ll admit there is a slight ret-con in it actually being her blood, in so much as the original explanation doesn’t go away. Mage-blood in its inception was a buildup in the body of mages, resulting from their internalization of spells. A concentration of the substance of gift in a semi-stable form that is roughly as healthful as harmful.
It was invented in part to produce a physical skew between the twins, and an odd blessing and curse aspect to the world. What it’s grown into as a logical extension is interesting. I’m going to just go ahead and say Katrisha has it mostly right. Super-dominant traits are what happens when genes are replaced by filaments pretending to be matter. Mageblood, is what happens when entire cellular structures become predominantly filaments pretending to be mater. A feedback loop by which the buildup propagates the process. Self regeneration of damaging side effects using the substance at hand.
As such, yes, mageblood is a buildup of filaments in the body, and specifically that buildup becomes a mimic. Outside of the host organism it decays into a quasi-stable substance that is reflective almost by virtue of mimicking light. This happens more in mages – partly – because spell-craft is a more artificial practice, imposing a rigid abstract order to things, but sneakily also because magic does not expend as much gift. A such highly gifted mages are more likely to experience a build up. Magic isn’t needed as it were, but is a contributing factor in most cases. Similar practices may bare similar results.
I’ll just leave Etore’s assertions hanging.
I had intended the Clockwork Sky to contain one more scene, but alas by length I only had enough room left in the chapter for this morning transition. Singers at last showing the power they are known for fully. A heck of a wakeup call. Though also I am considering exactly how and when aspects of the following scenes will unfold.
Laset was invented in part to extended background credence to Taloe’s existence in the world. Just a background element, as were the rest of the half-flesh/elementals (Vashiel!) Imply an underlying principle that can be leveraged. Yet with the advent of Estae, and as we arrived at introducing Laset, it became a consideration of the larger picture, and how it all fits together.
So I allow the characters here to speculate what I have concluded. Laset is something near godlike, but she is not singular. She is a manifestation, and as she claims a connection to what Estae was, but not a shared self, there is then a connection to what Taloe is. She originated from his people, another of the tribe of Tethis, who left before their fall. Whose leaving, perhaps permitted that fall. Even so, she is a part of something larger.
There is a lot to be said for keeping stories simpler. I do worry about the actual replication of character archetypes. The mirrors and shadows, because they violate a standard convention about redundancy of characters. The thing of it is, I would argue they are not redundant, in that they have any number of differing moral qualities, and ambiguities.
Still, were the Bonabin necessary? No, but they emerged and allowed a narrative to begin to build. I honestly strongly played with the idea of having Rihonae actually be Rowana, though an alternate self replicated from another world. Causing both Etore and Liora to react similarly. I set this aside however because it felt like a stretch too far. You can still see a bit of it. Both being hidden extensions of the Osyraen royal line. I also liked leaving her sacrifice where it was.
Now, mind you I do tip the hand a bit there that yes. They remain in part mirrors. We after all have a shadow dragon now originating at two ends of the world. These ‘redundant characters’ I hope to be as interesting in how they are alike, as how they are different. Just as the loops in time. You cannot be sure how one will act, for how their mirror or shadow did. It’s not absolute like that. The pattern is a risk, but what is art without risk? If we only take the safe choices.