Chapter III:7

The wolf is the pack,
the pack is the blood,
blood skillfully taken,
to feed their young.

The ram is the heard,
the horn and the hoof,
every lamb she defends,
each honored and good.

The serpent is lurking,
the smallest his pray,
the largest he fears,
by hoof kept at bay.

The mother is watching,
with crook tends her flock,
the child she is growing,
with lamb head doth knock.

Take what is yours,
take all that you can,
stay not the young sheep,
grow proud as the ram.

The Flock, circa 600 B.E.

Order Midst Chaos

The caravan started to move. Katrisha had enchanted each wagon, providing a barrier that would slow incoming arrows, hopefully to harmless speeds, and likely short of their mark. She was regretting it. The effort had left a weariness in her bones, even with her staff aiding her. Kiannae had tried to help, but her skills were not as sharp with conventional magic anymore, and her methods too intensive. Her own reserves taxed form healing.

It wasn’t good. None of it was good, and the caravan was moving much faster than it could sustain. Trying to make a town before nightfall. Wren was curled up to Katrisha’s shoulder seeking comfort. She was taking easily as much from his presence. Kiannae sat across from them, reserved, eyes closed, reaching out with her senses in every direction. Continue reading “Chapter III:7”

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Arcana: The Sword

TheSword.png
Shown also reversed for symbolism.

The Sword, Pinnacle of the Works of Mortals. As so many of the Works it can be a very literal card. Representing war, conflict, strife, and a line in the sand. Yet the symbolism here bares some deeper examination.

Let us first consider the strange position of the Sword as a Pinnacle. One could easily interpret this as a favorable judgement of war, and games of power as the height of human endeavor. Truly many would be more comfortable to see this as the doom of the House of Works, and not its apex. Perhaps this stands as a judgement not of war, but of mortals, and their striving, sometimes injurious ways.

Look deeper however, and more mysteries unfurl. Here we see the words Vhale Etten. A most peculiar combination to a post imperial observer, ignorant the traditional gods. The dragon Mar’etten might be more familiar. Etten having a meaning in ancient Osyrean associated with loyalty. This however brings even more confusion for those only passingly familiar with the tale of the Lightbearer, the Morningstar. A tale often told (particularly in modern times) as betrayal.

It is easy to forget there are many versions of the stories from the age of myths. Indeed here we see Vhale (the shining world of the morning star) and the sun Rhan depicted behind the sword. The Lightbearer was given his title for holding his father’s great power as the sun grew weary.  Such he is also known as the the sun personified. Where tales differ most between lands is the characterization of the motivations of the Morningstar figure, and not the events themselves.

Did Vhale betray his father, and try to keep the great power, or are the tellings of Rhan’s fall the better version?  Is Vhale the sun personified, and it is his own weariness?  Is Vhale the tragic failed patriarch?  These questions aside most lands agree on what follows. Vhale cannot hold the great power for long, and tries to give a portion to his daughter Rhaea. With ease the girl took this power, but Vhale’s fall left her to bare the entire burden. None could hold the whole might of the sun. So it was Rhaea was destroyed, and a great fire burned the skies.

This ends the Rhan creation myth, and begins the Sunless Age of the Moon Civilization.

Here we see that the sword is a card of ambition, and necessity. The call of power, and those who accept its burden. The sword here is buried in the cracked and dry land, an act of cessation, but not surrender. The sword may still be taken up.

Reversed the sword implies most readily then active conflict, powers raised, and wielded with intent, or recklessly. It is disloyalty, and rebellion risen against the powers that be. Here we see the face of the betrayal side of the traditional story.

Lastly let us consider the scorched land. The destruction of war, and the fear of the burning sun. Great power has a call, but too much of anything is ruin. Truly the tale of the sun’s fall shows this clearly. A madness to cast away existence, and embrace eternal slumber. It is such in some tales that Vhale’s loyalty and betrayal are the same. Loyalty to his oath, his role, and the world. Betrayal in not accepting his fathers will. Defiance, and rebellion.

Commentary III:6

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Violent Means

This confrontation as far as I can remember has always been here, but it’s changed a lot of ways over the years.  I worry about a lot.  So much editing, moving around.  New text at the last moment.  Pushing later onto Sundays.  Violence, more swearing, it’s just going to happen.  Death and despair.  Also I’m coming up on the end of extant written content.  In another week most new chapters will be almost completely written in that week, or in the month before as I jot down prose that occurs to me.  That means written, edited, and published usually in maybe fifteen hours total work?

Fight sequences are the worst on this short time scale.  It’s easy when a fight has two combatants, but even three makes the flow of prose such a tangle to edit, and keep consistent.  Really not sure I got this opening exchange right, but it is meant to be almost entirely testing.  An engagement first to judge your opponent, to force them to send out a rider, and pick that off.  A testing strike to gauge defenses, and countermeasures.

In real medieval times it was somewhat easy to gauge your target.  Swords, numbers, unless the whole thing was a setup, wagons full of soldiers, one had a good idea outside of skill what they were dealing with.  Yet introduce guns in more modern times, sometimes concealed, or here enchanted weapons, unknown numbers of mages, or other gifted.  Numbers don’t tell you much, and Etore is kind of right about that.  If you know your enemy doesn’t work well with other gifted, numbers, won’t tell you much more.  Still a bit arrogant, but she clearly has narrow limits.  I think this is more a cover, and excuse than to be taken with the authority she is trying to project.

Here we see some opposing ends.  We’ve seen Kia deal with killing before, and Kat, for the most part, however key her role, she hasn’t done so her self.  Etore on the other side, has seen some things.  She’s been death, but it’s hard to get the full measure of what she feels on the mater yet.  Certainly more nuanced than earlier versions of her, more embracing of what it means to be a mercenary, a thief, maybe more.  I’m cautious with how I use the word assassin, since I have plans for this word that are very specific, but more generically used.  Assassins will be a bit like magic, it’s a word with a very specific meaning of practice, but that the general public may misuse.  Then again the divide may never be as obvious, except in commentary.

On the subject of violence, it’s something I tend to thread with some of the same delicacy I’ve used around sex.  Although let me be fair to comment society is so much more permissive around violence than sex.  I don’t like gore, elaborate prose describing the horribleness of violence in sometimes flowery ways.  On the other side I have every intention for violence to have costs.  Healers may mitigate physical scars, and widen the band of survival, but the particular point of the the damage to Randal has stuck.  Everyone around him died, he probably should have.

Cadith, The Wolf.  Also has been here as long as the scene, but he didn’t get a name, or an exact relation to the throne till maybe three years ago.  Book III so far seems to be the place where everything from Book I comes back to haunt us.  Ghosts, brigands, the uncertain place of Wren in things.

I really do need to get around to posting content on Osyraen iconography, and how it relates to central savanna ecology.  Short version would be to say central Osyrae is ecologically harsh, and the actual top of the ecosystem is…debatable.  Of course other than humans.  Though it is not clear if Osyraens could manage to live in the central savanna without their domesticated animals for defense.

Alright sorry, trying again for a short version:

The Lion: You might expect the lion pride to be the king, but Lions easily get bullied out of areas by a ram heard.  They also easily take pray from packs of savanna wolves, taking as the saying goes, the Lion’s share.

The Ram: The sheep of central Osyrae have a peculiarity, adults all have prominent horns.  This has also spread into the mountain populations.  Hence Osyraen sheep are more often called Osyraen Rams.  The common people of Osyrae have a close iconic connection to the Ram.  Snakes, Lions, and Wolves all fear them.  Gaining little advantage by blending in, they are extremely white to reflect the savanna sun, and to stand out, encouraging most predators to keep their distance.

The Savanna Wolf: Fast, smart, clever, inventive.  Savanna wolves are hard to tame or domesticate, but there have been efforts to bread these aggressive hunters with more manageable dogs.  The Savanna wolf is the only animal that dares challenge ram heards, peeling off the young, the old, the weak, and the vulnerable, even tricking defending adults into trampling their fellows through agility.

Osyaens treat the deadly animals of their lands with respect, and honor.  Even the loathed viper has been insured some places on the fringes of the wild lands, and its chief predator the constrictor is a beneficial wanted resident of the city.  They keep rat and viper populations under control.  People in the capitol actually bread rats as pets, of for release as food for the constrictor populations.  To insure the vipers are kept out.  Constrictors are also kept as pets by some, and even feral city constrictors are quite docile.  Still, to watch one kill a viper is a bit unnerving, and the way they choke the life out of their prey does not reduce a cultural impression of insidiousness.  Particularly as they get everywhere, slithering through every crack.

In open savanna, and farmlands the Ram’s tromping hooves, and resistance to viper poison generally keeps them far away from residences.  Iconically one might see in Osyreaen culture the following implications:

The Serpent: Is everywhere, an unavoidable thing in the dark corners.
– Things of the underworld, but who get things done
The Ram: Is the nobility of the people, proud, strong, and not to be messed with.
– The people, the workers, the commoners
The Wolf: Is clever, fast, and cruel.
– Soldiers, warriors, mercenaries, fighters
The Lion: Is proud, and powerful, but the people are stronger.
– Royalty, barons, the rich, and the prideful

Ok, language.  Expletives serve a function in language.  I think I covered this somewhere before, maybe it was just in a writing group, but taboo words, swearing, cursing, these are things that cary meaning.  Overuse them, they loose their meaning, but when the delicate, or cordial among us start throwing uncharacteristic words around, that when you know the proverbial shit has hit the fan.

Shit, was always my mother’s favorite cheat word.  When my mother said shit, you know it was bad, or well, hurt like something else.  I like the word shit among the large array of swears.  It’s such an evocative powerful word, on the inner most edges of linguistic taboo.  Also sometimes robbed of it’s meaning by this shit, and that shit.

It’s descriptive of life, because there will always be shit.  It’s what life does.  What horses do certainly, among other things.  I imagine caravans sometimes go into areas, nice village squares, and are expected to haul out the literal horse shit when they go.  I feel like sack of horse shit, makes a very nice thing for a caravan master to degrade someone as.  Really, rooted in the culture.  Evocative of the horrible things that come with being a merchant.

I’ve generally been fairly restrictive with language in O&E, it just felt right, but at the same time, words will find their time.  Sometimes to accentuate the worst situations, or the word people.  Sometimes to make light of how we use, and view language.  Which we will see more of if I ever get deeper into Sylvia Grey.

Chapter III:6

Of the company of merchants,
much could right ‘n truly be said,
half contrary ‘n misleading,
the rests destitute or dead,

no better the company they keep,
sell swords oft of lowest caliber,
yet without it the wheels would stop,
and every fortune would be poorer.

– Councilman Ashander I, circa 450 E.R.

The East Road

“So, how was the old farm?” Samantha asked with reservation as a silver haired woman tried to storm past her.

“Oh, the usual,” Katrisha spun, and glared at her. “Ancient ghosts. Fulfillment of millennia old prophecy. Love conquers all. Except for me of course. I die alone at the end of the world,” She turned on her heal again, marched past, and slammed a wagon door behind her.

Continue reading “Chapter III:6”

Arcana: The Sun

TheSun.png
Shown also reversed for symbolism.

The Sun, pinnacle of The Cosmos (The House of Suns) is one of the more perplexing cards, both historically, and symbolically. The Sun, (in some decks The Aether) depicts both Rhan as the sun itself, and Vhale, The Light-bearer, with a light burning through his heart as the Morningstar.  Here we see the oft forgotten idea that Vhale in not merely the Sunchild, but in some versions also the sun personified.

He stands upon cracked dry soil, with two dark granite monoliths flanking him.  Further evidencing that he is not merely in shadow, but clearly a man of Osyraen description.  His slight figure however makes it clear he is not intended to be King Osir.  A large, monstrously broad shouldered man who did much to distance himself from the myth of the Sunchild through his reign.

The Embers of Rhaea string the sky around the sun, and Vhale’s horned crown. His eye  is etched with a pseudo-magical rune that matches the mark on The Hand. Hence The Eye of Vhale. For it was said he was blinded in one eye (stories vary how,) and forged one anew.  This eye permitted him to see all things touched by sunlight.  These two aspects give him the additional titles of The All Seeing, and The Half Blind God.

From his right hand can be seen flowing waters of life.  From his left the sands of the dessert.  This traditional depiction is often argued as an early understanding the water cycle, and sun’s place in it.  This conflicts with the first recorded description of the process during the late pre-imperial age, as the earliest depiction of predates it by a century or more.

The abstract lines cutting across his body remind us of a title most often recorded in the east, The Lined One.  Any vague resemblance to magic is often ascribed to a later corruption.  Still the name itself is recorded in two surviving etchings from pre-ascension lands.  These predated Maji arrival by at least four centuries, and Osyraen expansion by two.  Official Osyraen records from early occupation report they were greeted in the far east almost as gods, ‘the Umber Ones.’  This is widely questioned as self aggrandizement by Osyraen conquerers.

The counter claim brings us to the inevitable.  It is all but impossible to discuss this card without delving the strange and muddled myths of the Sun Civilization, and for brevity we will minimize mention of the more well known Moon Civilization.

The Sun Civilization hypothesis proposes the origin of the Marker Stones scattered through the world.  Notably the monolithic standing stones of central Osyrae depicted here.  It holds that a great globe spanning society existed before the shamanistic age. Granting credence to The Age of Myths, as a literal time, from which only legends persist.  That all recorded history has been lost from this time, and that all evidence was washed away.

This hypothesis is viewed with great skepticism by most scholars, and the Council holds an official position of neutrality on the claim. Save the stance that far better evidence is needed to hold up to academic rigor. Particularly any dire interpretations of “the scorched wastes,” as the consequence of Vhale’s fall.  Such ideas nonetheless persist, and Vhale has been portrayed as a King, an Emperor, a God, and a Betrayer.  His name given to children even into modern times in lands that hold more favorable views.  Prince Vale, later The Black Emperor of Osyrae, was named for him.  Vhale’s starting of the dragon war has more modernly swayed the popular perception towards the idea of the Betrayer.

Yet even what remains of the Sun Civilization myths drowns before recorded history, and other myths.  For perspective most of the age of myths are dominated by “The Sunless Age,” and contain more widely known oral traditions around Yaune, Laeune, Lycos, and Lynx. These comprise the Moon Civilization mythos.  For which there is more material evidence.  Particularly in Napir.  Though the Storm Queens have long guarded their great library jealously, and it is difficult to date the actual age of the Throne of Storms.  The vast majority agree that it did stand at least several centuries before the Maji arrival, whatever Napiraen claims may be.

The Sun is a card of terrible power, and responsibility. A card of kings and firstborn. Yet heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.  Great power may create or destroy.  As symbolized from the water from his right hand, and sand from the left.  Some hold that the shading towards the bottom of the card is not merely the breaking dawn (or setting sun) across the land, but the return of life, or the ocean’s edge.  Some versions as such instead depict the ocean shore at his feet.  Some also show the seven rivers branching from his right hand.

Reversed it is a card of critical failure.  Collapse. Of strife, betrayal, or a loss of self. This is commonly obscured in the ‘betrayal’ interpretation of the myths.  For it can be said that if one is the sun personified, and betrays the sun, one has betrayed themselves.  “The betrayal of the soul’s light,” it is written in Clarion proverb.  Reversal also places the ruin of power, and the idea of the scorched wastes, above the glory of the sun. The cost ascendant, or greatness a worrisome specter seen from bellow.  It can speak to another taking your place, or holding sway over you.  For the betrayal of the Morningstar was to try to take the Sun’s place in the cosmos.  His loyalty was to bear the great burden his father Rhan no-longer could.

The Sun is a card of creation and destruction. Of rebirth and final oblivion. A card of strife, and rivalry.  Of ascension, and the fall of the ambitious.  A card in conflict with itself.  If the dooms are oft misunderstood as mere bad omens, The Sun is a mark of fortune, that should bring caution. For from the Pinnacle of Pinnacles, there may only be down.

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Commentary III:5

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StormTracks.png

Too Many Tangents?

So let me start off, that the title is not a misspelling.  Not arctangent, but arch-tangent, and the poem tries to convey that this is intentional.  Too esoteric?  Maybe.  Above a quick stab at reproducing a bubble chamber graph.  Iconic imagery of particle physics, blended with a world of magic.  Trite? Oh well.  This was a world that got it’s name because of a gag, a pun of sorts.  The Order of Entropy.  Sometimes it’s best to embrace the truth.  I’ve always loved trying to wrap my head around the shape of space, and time.  How it works.

This chapter is a delicate blend of old and new content, that once upon a time flew by in a mere 5k words.  At least one section got fully dropped, but, for better or worse I was attached too much to a lot of things I was doing, and not willing to force them all into the same moment.  It was also a fascinating transformation from a world in which Kit, a girl, became Wren a boy.  The introduction of the staff to the scene, and it’s role yet to play.  The different characterizations for everyone involved.  Saying, and doing so many of the same things.  I did flip Mallory and James for various reasons, mostly preference.  Ironic given the meaning of the name.  Hope I didn’t slip up anywhere in editing.

The children were new, and I felt this need to mix and echo the past in ambiguous ways.  Kit was just offended, but Wren actually hurt by the incident, and I didn’t feel like I could leave out the introspection.  Not as Wren gains perspective on his own nature.  What was always-there losing its familiarity, to be observable.

So, the flirting was once a bit more amiable.  I maintain, this is always who Kat was.  This was the story of the woman I went back, to tell, along with her sibling.  This whole scene was once brief, and uneventful.  Now thrust into the limelight, and one of the primary reasons the chapter went over word count.  I had considered cutting it, and then this all happened and, nope, it had to stay.  Other things could be sacrificed on the scramble to keep this chapter under 10k.  It hit exactly 9999 words so many times during late editing, over and under too of course.

This has always been the intent, that Wren for reasons is more aware of her.  We’ll get a hint of other causes, but his gift has always been intended to play a big roll..

Torta.  I liked the idea of them, when they occurred to me.  I invented the word as a corruption of totem, I believe, but don’t read too much into that.  I totally intend for them to be real, but I don’t know if we will ever meet one, or if I’ve decided exactly how clever they actually are.  Clever though, very.  One could infer where Lunka’s mother might have learned something.

I will also say when I added Lunka and Shadow it was in part my intent to establish Etore.  Her gift, her power, work largely the same way, though I’m sure there are subtleties. Other things I do intend to draw in.  Etore, was originally Etree, but everyone always read it E-tree.  Etore on the other hand is a similar and researched (but modified) name with a meaning that may say more about others, than the woman herself.  Etore has grown greatly from her first inception, but always stuck to a central vision.  Which some may have caught a glimpse of in the extra The Red Shadow.

The tree.  Goodness, I don’t even know how long I’ve had pieces of this in mind.  It wasn’t the first draft.  The tree existed as a whim at first, a reason to give them a name I liked the sound of.  Yet simple poetics cast the first shadow.  Allusions to the ancientness of the Ashton tree.  This percolated beneath the surface for years.  The idea it was the grave site of a king consort I believe came next.  A passing thought, but it brought me to my idea of dryads, and well, as I say.  The circle was complete.  It’s not fair to say that the tree was made more important to suit the larger story, but rather that the tree made that larger story part of what it became.  Hmm.

I made a promise in the opening of the book, one that always seemed to imply one thing, as the books went other directions.  Yet one wonders what becomes of those who walk in the company of a god.  What the word might really mean.  There are many ideas of gods, more or less human in our world.  The abstractness of ascension.  What does it mean to become something more than human.  What is the thing that comes after human.  For the sake of drama, who, is the thing that comes after human.  I made a promise, but I was not the least specific, and though I remain committed to my plan, my characters remain committed to defy me.  We will see.  There actually are many ways the ending is currently written, and others it could be.

I’m struggling in some coming chapters to not tip my hand further than I have, as compelling conflicts tempt me.  How far do I want to go, how much do I wish to let the powers that be intrude.  I’ve dropped a hint already, because the line wants to be written, yet now I wonder, if it could be spoken by another.  Oh, that is all the more tempting.  Which spirals down a tangent where I may have to make Torta overly real.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  It’s absurd, and yet it fits oddly well with everything established.  Very torn about that.

Got a couple weeks to make up my mind.  Oi, Torta.