The Long Run
I had initially titled this chapter the Blood of the Sea, but felt it was too on the nose. The Silver Thread ultimately came from the crimson thread of the poem (blood in veins,) but does evoke the silver chord a bit, which plays well enough. All this said there is a favored metaphysical idea I oft return to, that the sea is never far, for we cary her with us in our veins.
What had originally been drafted in one chapter, is now looking to take at least 3 to resolve. Even two felt rushed, and I’m still struggling with structuring the climax of this mid book arc. If that is too telling, apologies.
To be overly real this proved a frustrating chapter to construct, not so much write. I wonder if it shows that I switched the sections around a bit after they were written, and then edited them to more appropriately flow. This pushed me too late in Sunday for editing to realistically be addressing commentary alongside final editing. Which has a cost, little things slip. Mostly towards the later part of the chapter. Some of which I’ve since fixed, after only a reader or two had read it.
I had once, and long ago imagined a scene in Mordove, a play to properly introduce By the Moon My Dear into the cannon of the narrative as a backdrop, behind which the audience would creepily start singing the song over the melody. A nod to the waking of Estae beneath the city. It never found a spot, but perhaps when I go back later for final publishing, it will find a space in the broken off Book IV. Instead it emerges here adding an extra layer of the ominous to the stirring powers in play.
In my writing style I have a tendency to allow plots to diverge from the main course, and then drive them back to where they go. I find this tends to reveal a certain gravity of character desires, and motives, and even connections that might otherwise not be discovered.
I’ve mentioned Laset was originally created back when discussing the half-flesh, in Book I, which was designed as an establishment for the emergence of Taloe in Book II, as well as trying in with Wren’s more esoteric powers. The nightmare spirit of Book II is something of an abstract Aesop, but she then becomes a point that establishes what becomes Estae, who is tied to Taloe, who is tied to Laset, and we come full circle.
Mage-blood was a mechanism by which a health condition could emerge to physically skew Katrisha form her sister, which ultimately I will admit arises from a peculiar humor. While Katrisha (or at least Kat) vastly predated my time playing WoW, many aspects of my gnome mage have had influence. Same with Kia, who takes some influence from an elf druid. Bit of a height difference for twins, and it became a canonical search in their own world for cause, for something less extreme.
I do not however stop at simply introducing a tool for a single purpose. A highly energetic substance, produced only by a rare health condition prominent in highly gifted individuals begs to be a blessing, and a curse. So I established it as immensely valuable, partly limited in application by sheer rarity, and limited experimentation. I kept in my back pocket the potential of the energy stored atop her head for years, until Eastroad.
Let the idea of the surge, (storm surge oh so literal…) push the idea of her condition worsening, which let me more quickly restore her patented silver haired look, but trickles on, and on in implications. Kiannae’s vision of golden mage-blood. Considering what really goes on inside that living staff of hers. Rather than leave things hanging, I do all I can to tie them together, where ever it makes sense, and that, is I admit a discovery process.
When Laset came to offering ascension, it just made sense. Rather than the problematic visual of flesh and blood diffusing into water alone, when Kat brought us to the notion that it is degenerate mater, that used to be her blood, that gave me Orwells form, and all the talk of mirrors comes together at last in a very literal sense. Though bare with me the figurative is still quite intended, and this is… a drop in the ocean.
As Laset expands upon the extent of her powers, it does beg the question, how much does she really know. How clear is her sight, and of the past, her immediate past, the answer is a lot. Thinking back to the other establishment half-flesh I had written up, it made sense to bring together another one of those tales, and let her drop hints.
Orwell is largely not referenced by name after the transfiguration, in part to add a weight of uncertainty to who this entity is in the eyes of his former companions. I do not generally go out of my way to draw clear Aesops, if they emerge naturally crystalized, I’ll also not go far out of my way to hide them either. It was a late decision honestly the whole relationship between Orwell and Sund, it arose honestly out of the fact I wanted to give Ambrush her own cabin, and then was left wondering where Sund slept.
The message however is not mean to be clear. It is not entirely my intention to provide a judgement, or resolution, but rather I’ve allowed a complex set of cases to emerge. We’ve at least three characters how’s very form represents a complexity between identity, and what others, particularly those most pointedly close to them want.
Yet while Orwell goes in with some faint ambivalence to Laset’s price, the creature that emerges expresses a liking for what she has become. Which is ironically beyond the pale for Sund. I’m sure it is now and then a point of contention that emerges. One wonders if a bit more often in the given circumstances. Ultimately Orwell however was not discontent to be a man, so much as perhaps human.
Amir had enough similarity to draw upon for me to start wondering. With this over arching pattern of mirrors, and shadows, it made sense to start drawing a connection in the previous section, and bring it around here, as Katrisha digs up a book never expressly mentioned, but that would have made good sense to bring. Given Kiannae’s struggles with Taloe and Estae.
In the squabbling Etore tips off by challenging Sund’s reserved declaration of his relationship with Orwell I think we get as close to the clear Aesop as I likely am. That society will ask things of people not in their nature, and there is a cost both in bending, and defying. Orwell saw a higher value in becoming more than human, as a man of little gift. What he felt on the other side, better than he imagined.
Etore can be useful in her willingness to say cutting things others might not. Also nice to sometimes imply she might be the most observant in the room, and as good at putting it all together as anyone. Just a bit of an inflammatory delivery of her revelations, but it certainly stops people in their tracks.
There are a lot of things lurking under any given rock I might turn over in this world. I spend a lot of time, by my nature it seems, considering how humanity gets to the places it does, it’s all speculation, because it’s next to impossible to actually scientifically confirm much of how our cultures, biases, instincts, etc have evolved, or even to identify which is which at times. I’m gonna set this aside as a quote, skip ahead if you please, because I’m going to muse philosophic about sexual stereotypes around sex. Mostly off of Etore’s riff on wanting it as much as men.
There is a lot of discomfort that arises from some of these, and I guess I want to further preface that my intent is to talk about the stories we tell ourselves. The biases that we cannot always fully dismiss, and that are sometimes considered real, but skirt the territory of impossible to truly prove or disprove. Not scientifically. Not when you are examining perceived statistical influences without any possible control group, and massive selection, and cultural bias.
The ‘standard model,’ for the script of men and women, as biased in western culture says that; A selection pressure (via opportunity at low cost) to breed as much as possible exists on men, and so we should find no surprise in seeing a trend of men instinctually leaning hyper-sexual, and less invested in pairing. There is conversely a selection pressure to breed carefully (due to high investment,) in high resource environments for women. We should then find no surprise in them seeking closer connections. Of course, this is overly simplistic, and even this ‘standard model,’ admits this because:
Women being attracted to more liberally procreating males would also have a selection pressure, because she’s got a 50/50 chance of a male child, who would then hypothetically be more successful. Procreating at all, in any circumstances, surely has some selection pressure on both. So, it doesn’t all pan out, or clearly some ‘strategies’ are far more productive in other ways.
Then again there is a selection pressure for males to provide resources for their offspring, since the ones who didn’t would have fewer survive. The influences become so arguable and vast it is hard to chalk things up to instinct alone, whatever emerges in social contexts. Certainly in a great number of cases social pressures are beating instinctual ones.
Humans are somewhat unusual as a species in having extended female sexuality. That is to spare following the link, that women have sexual behavior outside of reproductive windows. The ‘standard model’ might imply that there was a selection pressure for this to keep a male (driven to constantly mate) around, to have the resources for any potential young. Though honestly this could have been so obtuse as a lack of selection pressure against the reward mechanisms working all the time, and there for actually working better through hedonistic adaptation. Both, is also an option.
These are all speculations, and hyper simplifications, looking for an instinctual cause. It’s hard to impossible to determine how much instincts back up these biases, and even then, they would produce only trends in behavior, not categorical behavior. Yet, are the biases themselves – the cultural constructs, and norms – manifestations of the selection pressures outlined? That is culture itself should in theory be subject to selection pressure. Evolve around success factors, and even adapt faster to a changing world, since its mutations are mostly not random, and may in actuality be intelligently designed (however resistant humans are to change, no mater how sensible.)
It’s worth noting as (I’ve called out previously) humans are intelligent, and intelligence is a peculiar adaptation, as it can lead to getting good at tripping reward mechanisms in abstract of benefit. More so, if another benefit emerges that is less obvious. Such as social cohesion, or even the emergence of society. Both working for, and against, any number of the above pressures on instinct development.
Etore’s barb about ‘how men even think,’ is (from an authorial perspective) a deep cut at the (surely mythical) but widely repeated notion men think about sex every 7 seconds. Which is most readily dismissed that it would interfere with basic cognition, and… well there’s the joke, it explains everything. Slightly self ‘effacing’ in context that as much as /she/ wants sex, she’s really not sure how men, who supposedly want it so much more, function at all in society.
Of course on the other side if one adds “on average” to the above (which would have to be presumed any way, it’s not clockwork) then the statement would be comparable to saying men spend 1/7th of their life thinking about sex. So a man could not think about sex at all, for six hours, and then think about it for an hour, and qualify under the assertion. A bit harder to dismiss out of hand as categorically absurd, but still at least slightly stretches credulity.
If I were to get deeply meta (and that says something), the Lycian order, and the Red Women as they exist all spin off of a single comment made long ago (~16 years ago) by an ex. She expressed an interest in [serious] fiction in which people actually have sex. Setting aside the peculiars of the expressed interest, this still got me to thinking down a lot of lines, and as with everything else I cross pollinated the influences. (Seemed an apt analogy…)
Thought: Gift is life. There for the gifted are more alive, and all things that life is… including sexuality, and perhaps, particularly this.
Thought: Gift can be perceived (particularly by the gifted,) it is not hidden, it would actually represent a selection pressure for attraction. As sure as symmetry, or any visible trait indicating fitness.
Thought: It might however clumsily bypass gender identification, and this might still be a highly viable selection pressure. As two (or more) highly gifted individuals would through a social bond, have the absolute most stable resources for the care of children.
Thought: Gift can be manipulated in perceptible ways. It would be a selection pressure to be able to exaggerate its attractive influence, to attract mates, just as any other similar adaptation in nature. (Peacocks.) Even possibly as instinctual as blushing.
Thought: If gift is more prevalent in women, would it then actually equalize the sexual inclinations of women? Particularly when mitigating their greater burden, by giving them more control over procreation, and there for more benefit in forming larger social nets.
I extended sexuality to its secondary function in humans more heavily, as culture has already proven apt to do. The better things are going, the more dense human population gets. The more dense human population gets, the more aware we become of outliers, and the more we are forced to accept them. Also the more we start thinking about not breeding as much, but we have all these breeding centered basic drives… As above stated, the notion that extended female sexuality exists at least in part as a social bonding tool. That clearly men adapted to as well, if not always as well. (Humor… mostly.)
The Red Women emerged as an offshoot of many of these thoughts, and were certainly compounded by the rest. The desire to create a contrasting subset of society inspired by feminism, and hippy communes, carried through to an actual religious role, and borrowed trappings. The subversion of lesbian nun tropes, and all of that. Rather than carry through to an unproductive (or rather un-reproductive) social construct, that would have more isolation, and less resources, I expanded out into a readily available, and plausible branching niche. That does not require a much higher bar, of tossing the men out with the bathwater. (Take the paraphrase how you please.)
I arrived at the notion that Red Women filled (or at least partly coopted) the space in society of prostitutes, without the direct quid pro quo (this for that) of a specified transaction. Further without being at the bottom of the hierarchy of power, they were oft at the top (in context.) An arrangement that becomes more religious in nature, priestesses ministering to a flock, and petitioners coming from a wider patriarchal world. They do not preach in the streets, because invariably the receptive come to them. Including often conventional prostitutes fleeing less favorable conditions, and seeking sanctuary. Which is by design part of the charter of their oder, and the wider Lycian order as a whole. A successful cultural propagation strategy, presuming you have a panacea from the direct downsides. (See reproductive control, and cleansing of diseases.)
There is a natural butting of heads with patriarchal power structures however. This outlines an intrinsic conflict between the Lycian and Clarion social contract, including even perhaps very much the origin of it. It naturally produced a matriarchy vs patriarchy dynamic, and if you carry that to the point of open conflict, it becomes militant.
Assassins emerged from the the contrary nature of a highly restricted society. The price that is paid in a society by those pushed to the fringes, and the blackmarket of vices that become more extreme, and twisted in hidden corners. I’ve discussed elsewhere their development, but it bares iterating that at some point the Red Women and Assassins would come into contact, and things would happen.
The Saou are another take, and another extreme of power disparity. One focused on, and emerging out of the underlying conflict of procreative imperatives between males and females. The Boor very much also, even though they fall into the simple slave analogue, which is very much about resources. To be absolutely clinical about it – one can infer all the ‘advantages’ owning another conscious being confers in all of this.
In each of these cases there is a push, and pull of the dynamics our common cultural biases expect to be there. Whether it is the idea of men, trying to adapt women to suit their desires, or women trying to mitigate male disruptive influence, or women trying to play the game of male centered hierarchical structures. (See Thae’s bargain.)
To get particularly dark, the most poisonous (and modernly familiar) form of slavery often evoked is chattel, which in effect treated people as cattle (look at the roots.) Etore does not quite get all the way to a certain understanding here, saying that the Saou oft belonged to the Ladies. Rather it has been implied (or was intended to be implied if it slipped by) they ultimately belonged to Estae, as her mother (Thae) before her. Her role as Queen of the Saou. In much the same way that lands belonged to a monarch, but were held in title by their vassals. Which in part shows how she was above the highborn, contractually. I say particularly dark, because this then says they were treated truly as property, perhaps in an even more material sense of the word. Whatever thin protections might arise out of the implied structure.
All this bares mentioning in that the Singers, are called out here as part of this set. A more ‘preaching’ potential manifestation somewhere in all of this. The alluring song some new quirk to have emerged, along with a divestment from flesh. Though some portion of them were men in life. I admit I did this in part for irony, but there is a twisted practicality. One that the characters have read of in the Crimson Book, and some other sources, and Laset has implied in a single passing line, but has never been openly explained.
There were a great many Boors living, and working in the deep halls of the Sun Civilization, but the demand for Saou as servants (companions or pets) was orders higher, including to keep up the Boor population, and keep them complacent. There have been hints in Laset’s words of her intentions around this. Goes quite a bit farther than a eunuch, and yet not as far all at the same time, as many remained some degree of reproductively functional as females. The Faun shapers got remarkably good at what they did. I’m not presently going to say why I’m clarifying this, but I will say it’s relevant.
Strange thought experiments may emerge if one divorces the material limitations that are familiar, and apply only cultural and evolutionary ideas carried to their extreme. Slave populaces, concubines, and harems, polygamy, and an idea of man as an animal in constant search of many mates is… history. So far as it is oft presented. Some aspects rare enough perhaps, but prevalent, and recurrent enough to be found easily in written, and even ‘holy’ record. The more fantastical elements all but surely missing only for the lack of supporting fantastical ability. That women played their own active, or powerful roles, such as Thae, and Estae… madams, courtesans, beauty standards, and shame policing… history.
I will close this on the thought that the Faun thought themselves justified in their arrangement as ‘higher beings’ (gods as it were). I mention this to tie with what we will hear a bit about later, around Amir. The idea that they had a greater perspective upon the world, and the cycles of time. Things that their vassal race(s) could not even perceive, nor surely understand. Though clearly, that has changed, if it was ever true. Our history would tell us it was just a convenient excuse. Though somewhere along the line, you do have to wonder about neanderthal DNA still kicking around, and how that happened… structurally speaking. There are chapters of human history we can really only speculate about.
I wonder if Etore wound up mentioning Mara’s words about beating Laset in convincing Sund to join them. My excuse in this was he owns the ship and should be there, but I’ll admit this is really just to have him present, for things to unfold as they do in the next scene. Why Etore was sent to get him… probably just because at one point I simply had her walking out of the room.
This scene originally flowed off the initial transformation, but felt too rushed, maybe still does, but I wanted to move on, and keep my schedule, so, it is what it is for now. A place I will consider some future editing to better smooth things, perhaps, but it may be a permanent sacrifice to pacing. Maybe the content in between these scenes needs to be edited instead, and placed after. This is the main source of the structural challenge that arose slowing things down.
I say pacing, and yet, we really do have a ways left to go, I worry, because I do not want to hit book 8 on The Storm Cycle, but I also don’t want to keep rushing through things that come up along the way.
Any way, it’s not like they are walking miles, just going in and out of adjacent buildings that are not absolutely huge, or anything. This was indeed what Mara’s words were to facilitate, and though she had no idea of the result, it’s not implausible that the entity that gave her the message in the fist place knew full well what doors might open.
Thinking about that some more myself may help me finish out this sequence, there are still some hiccups in pacing, in triggering, and pushing an unstable condition to resolve without it feeling forced, and arbitrary. I don’t want to linger on this island for a great many more chapters, but perhaps, a few more days could be implied, rather than written. Hmm. Thinking out loud.
Still, in the name of the very pacing slow down I’ve been struggling to achieve, little is resolved in this scene, and provides an impetus for Katrisha to confront Laset privately. Orwell has regained his form, and Sund is left between victorious, and worried that he’s made a mistake.
Amir was invented like Laset as background, and establishing historical context. Yet, looking at what I wrote, I saw a through line that could tie together theses spattering pieces of history.
Amidst more uncomfortable notions arises the term Suns. In many ancient manuscripts historians have been perplexed by the usage, though most existent records it was used in the sense of year, there are outliers that are less clear, or even more specifically mystical in nature.
This starts to paint a picture of societies that are aware of other lives, or impacted by other societies that are aware of other lives. I hesitate to say it so succinctly, but the idea of a lifetime as a day, beneath the proverbial Sun. This is a massive can of worms for comprehending a structure of maturity. Old souls some in our world refer to, children that are disproportionately precocious in any number of ways, even mature, and calm. Though not all precocious behavior is calm, and maturity is not always present.
It’s a theme that’s come up before, and a abstract association of a special cause to what otherwise happens entirely by nature. Different people develop at entirely different rates, in differing capacities. Many societies have developed a tendency to begin isolating boys at a very young age as a precursor to reigning in any early sexual development. Though this can have an exaggerated knock on effect of more closely associating most physical contact then with sex, or violence. Irony abounds, and I allow some comment to emerge in this.
Shamai arises off of the fact it’s bugged me for a long time shaman, when most were women. Aptly or ironically (take your pick) this lands very close to shammai, who were first century jewish scholars. I rolled with it as the original pre-osyraen dialect. Though I will note the thought process that man in Sylvan would be the objective form of life. (Much as we can make adverbs by adding ly, Sylvan can make explicit nouns by adding n, but it’s done mostly for clarity.) The rest turns into gibberish however. West-life-objective. Though I suppose one could infer ‘those who went west to live.’ That’s just me musing though, if a bit revealing I do have some long standing thoughts on the historic interactions between Osyraen and Sylvan.
I was raised in a peculiar tradition of divine mystery, which has seen a lot of use around Laset. The notion that a god who knows all things, ordains, all things. That it is in the unknowing, that free will is granted. An utterly infuriating notion, in part because it does make sense if you step back and look at it. To know the outcome with certainty, the outcome must be certain. If it is certain, it cannot change, and all that leads to it must be fixed. Omniscience is completely incompatible with free will, if it is possible at all. Though one is left to question if what remains is just god playing dice with the universe.
I find fun things sometimes turning over arbitrary rocks. Vashiel of all the elementals found very good use when I introduced the character of Varmun, and on occasion since as a divine name for those of his culture to invoke. It was one of those names I never put any thought into, however when I arbitrarily tried splitting it up, Va of the shiel, and looked on the internet I found a most peculiar meaning. This fit perfectly when thinking about what I meant to imply. A girl of the hut, or compare similar historic arrangements. A state in which Osir as the new king, who had ‘put in chains the shamai,’ and claimed many women for himself, and his vassals, but would also have children, including daughters. Total happy accident that it turned out to mean almost precisely what I would want it to.
Now to highlight what will probably never find a place to be clarified. Osir distanced himself from the myths of Vael when many monarchs might ascribe themselves to divinity, because ironically, he saw such things, and wished to flee them. To be great because he was great, not as the hand of some divine power. Particularly as he saw the curse inherent in the position. Also, perhaps because wishfully he believed, as Laset again asserts, and as has become a saying, a shadow is not what cast it.
I intentionally left some nods to a more brisk/rushed pace, in how Laset and Katrisha’s conversation ends. The situation is volatile, waiting to break free. Etore has implied if they will not free them, they should start fighting. Laset tried to stop, whatever it was Orwell did in restoring himself, rather violently. She has indeed proven a dubious creature, but her methods have belied an innate malice.
I ended the last book on Aster, and implied we were not done with her at the start of this one… I think. This felt like a good place to insert her return to the picture. Enough time for her to have made her way to Mordove. To have tried, and failed to get an audience perhaps. Who knows what else. It’s actually not been that long since the end of Book III/V.
It may have been implied somewhere already. It may never find a place. It’s not terribly a spoiler but there is a myth/story around Thae and Abass, that Abass was the hunter that slew a great dire stag, and offered it to the witch to earn her favor. All at once that he was the pawn of Vael, in being reborn in a form she might accept. In some Myths this is recorded, though Thae is oft instead cast as Laeune, who marked his forehead with the blood of the stag, to each side above the temples, and there he grew great antlers as the stag.
This was on my mind as I imagined a druidic version of a blessing for a newborn, to mark their forehead with two drops of water placed as such, and to tie this with Aster having later made herself as the faun, though she was born with the tail… she may have improved it.
In describing the sleeping guards we make the slightest nod back to a passing incident in book III/IV, and the guard who appears again at the start of III/V. A very small nod to someone in the right place at the wrong time. Of course it’s not so specific as to be sure. After all, it was implied Elise was the guard in that spot in some past world, and so it is entirely possible one of the guards she references is female… and also possible that the other is still the man, who did not imply his fancies were one way exactly.
Far too much ado about a small nod, though I think it is more meant to imply how well Aster reads people, in addition to her probably putting them to sleep with little more than a touch.
We also started the book with some mention of Tock undergoing some changes, and what those might be came near the end of the last book. Fox speak was fun, and we’ll likely still see it again in future, but Tock has certainly gone to the effort of being able to say precisely what he pleases, ps and all.
I specifically capitalize the address of Mother, after his little speech to make it more a title of address he is offering, rather than a direct implication she is the ancient god. Similarly I chose an odd phrasing of the forgiving of sins, to imply that the sin itself has been forgiven, more of an overturning of the underlying judgement. I dropped a more direct admission that the judgement had been wrong, for it felt a bit too far/humble.
I did want to establish something that has been previously implied, but we’ve never seen. These old Councilors are not all useless bureaucrats, and while Aster does make short work of her opponent with a most spectacular show of force, the very fact an old grey man could take something like an 8-10′ leap like that unfazed should at least show some capability. Also mitigated that she implies they have spared before.
We’ve seen Kiannae do lesser forms of what Aster pulls off here in a wagon. As common staple of truly fantastic game logic fantasy worlds is for druids to be able to grow vines quickly enough to bind opponents. I’m not sure if this will ever become even slightly common place in this world, but I won’t rule out something similar happening again in the right circumstances. Here Aster is working with incredibly particular circumstances that permit her to bend things a bit more spectacularly to her will to grow a tree so fast (which frankly would need to bend time,) as to catch the staff swing. She does this without the aid of Archdruid’s staff, which is a powerful artifact.
I hesitate to comment too much on what Aster means to say that shadows may hold such power. It is a fair assertion clearly, but I will say that it is meant to imply more than the obvious.
Having Amalia step from the shadows was a late addition. I’m torn because this might lessen some future reveal I had in mind, but, then again, it will make it less out of left field.