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A Title Un-tread, I think
I almost made reference to this old rule of thumb about weather at sunset and sunrise before. I’m pretty sure any way. A quick check did not reveal it, but anyone may feel free to tell me I missed it… Also, 100 Chapters. Cue fanfare.
There was quite a bit I held back from dwelling on in the opening scene, trimming away meandering exposition. I think I still mostly left the parts I wanted to get across. Though I’ve not even attempted to address the seemingly inconsistent passage of time. Clearly it’s not just moving fast for Aster’s new family. As years have passed since they arrived, but barely a day now as I think two have passed on the outside? It’s worth noting from the inside they likely would not notice the shifts. Though it might be why the staff is being more active.
As to where I held back, I cut a comment of, “the perfect mother, the perfect lover, the perfect friend, if a bit difficult at times.” Nanamni is something like a “Broken One” as they have come up before. Hence the reference to “not a perfect plan,” but an “all but perfect planner.” She is however as implied by this as well, not comprised of a vast store of pre-ordained if-thens. She’s something else.
What other powers she might have that Zale references are unclear, but she is immensely capable of social manipulation. “Always straight to whatever would work,” was the trimmed back description of what makes this somewhat ‘perfect’ woman a bit frustrating. She tends to skip right to the point, hard social left turns, as long as it works, as long as it gets the job done. It might be gifted flirting (cheating the moment,) or just an incredible intuition. It can still be oddly irritating even if ultimately pleasant.
As to how she looks at Zale, and his impression that it has little to do with him, is an allusion to the fact it has everything more to do with her. She remains very much the creature that the fallen Aster awoke, but also a bit more the woman she was before, living this calm life, with these abilities. A perpetual juxtaposition of innocence, and experience. Responsibility, and carefree existence. Yes, she did not pick up the game, she’s going to make Aster do that when she wakes up. It still gives an impression that could be read many ways.
Zale’s revealed powers remain abstract. He clearly has become some manner of mage, given his wards. He can also read things in her aura, trying to understand the woman he has now spent mysterious years of his life with. She caught him trying to read her, and clearly she remains in some ways obtuse to him, and amused by it. This is in itself notable, the presence of that amusement.
Over all the strange dynamic of their relationship is that of a much older woman, with an almost childlike, if largely responsible attitude, and a younger man, with a feeling in his bones, and shadows of memories that he is the elder. He’s not always certain though, that this woman is what she appears. That she does not know far more that she seems to.
Nanamni is a character that fascinates me, trying to piece together what her composite is. I will say she does have some vague memories of a woman who might have lived long ago, certainly did, in some world. A servant in the courts of the gods during the rise of Estae, who gained both great power beneath, and complete submission to her goddess. At the same time, her flesh and blood mind is mostly that of a 80ish year old Clarion cloister woman, born and bread. One who was seduced by a powerful creature, and who’s entire faith was shattered, and rewoven in the image of her goddess’ lost love. Only to watch that goddess fall, as she had prophesied she would.
I think that is important to understand in her having glommed onto Zale. One thing she does know is the abstract of the (divine) Aster’s plan. She had revealed that she was dying, and that madness would consume her. That one would rise to end her suffering, and that this one was worthy. At the time these words were unclear, but when she witnessed her Lady become something frightening, and Zale strike her down, and take some power from her, she knew the meaning, and followed him.
To Nanamni, since I doubt we will ever get a clear understanding of the inside of her head in text, there is nothing entirely strange about any of this. It has some vague aspects of trauma but as she exists she feels that her goddess is out there, being a goddess, and the frail human/faun of Aster is her child, her ward, her duty, and her honor. There was nothing strange about this transition for her. The child is not her god, nor her former lover, just a precocious, and precious child, who shadows of divinity, and former lives could not make her love more or less.
She is a creature of given purpose. Both her old faith, and in the inception of her new, she was asked to be a mother. It is core to her being from all sides of her life, as is being what is needed. Zale is part of that purpose for her, as the father of her child, even if Aster reshaped the little girl into her own likeness from the first cell.
I really do mean to convey however that none of this works quite in a selfless way. She is absolutely a creature of her own wants, and desires, though many of them center around being loved, adored, and wanted. Just preferably in the flavor of the moment.
It does bear saying that no part of her faith or identity is constructed around some idea of monogamous love or sexuality. Clarion cloister women are bread more like cattle than wives. Mates selected to produce ideal traits, and most if not all of her children have different fathers. Her Lady implied no such ideas to her either, giving her a man as a pet, though she has become more like his. She has been true to his wishes however, and exerts her desires alongside being what others want. There in lies the abstraction. He asked her to be more, and so she is. Said he didn’t want a pet, so he got an ever helpful imp. Picking as implied by the closing, ‘what is amusing or contrary, that achieves the goal.’
The implication being that this arrises out of some underlying personality, and probably not just random background noise. He’s just not always certain of that, even if she shows a generally fully functioning intelligence. As I said, she can be very opaque to him.
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I think I should split these context breaks like the chapters for clarity, and probably always should have been.
I repurposed bits of the conversation between Kat and Etore from one that had originally been written going up the hill between Wren and Etore. There were still some interesting things tucked away from that conversation that haven’t found a place yet, not sure if they will.
One rather odd thought that snuck up on me as I wrote this was if it was an iron pitchfork, and you brought everything else established, maybe it became a conduit for the powers in play, and maybe that had something to do with the fabled blow Adel struck before she died.
There are a lot of sneaky things that both have, and have not been long planned in all this. The realization that logistically, the level of honor that was granted to Adel, and the timing of things as likely as not would have put a young Lauralie at that funeral. This is indeed one of those things where the world really has started writing itself. Where the obtuse thing actually is inferred by everything else established.
This was round about the time of the Osyraen Civil war. That might have had some impact on displacing a feral drake into Avrale in the first place, though that could have just been chance. The Langslys had retreated to Avrale, including Jeoffrey and his daughter Alice, who had both been disowned by Alice’s mother. A woman who had taken an opportunity in opening hostilities to free herself of the unwanted marriage, and change her own political fortunes.
This leads to comment about how her cousin might be feeling a bit bad for her, having been unwanted by her mother. Which bled into whatever argument Meliae and Lauralie might have had. The twist kind of snuck up on me. Cause and effect always being suspect. The underpinnings of this revelation in mind for a long time, the actual order of events reversed.
It could have been the Meliae in Wren that made the deal. The soul of a mother who died for her child reaching out to another that might have, but if she held the storm herself, why not? A dying woman, killed with a mage-iron blade, furiously reaching for the strength to stand up, and stop the man off to slay her child, and sever the line. If others had tapped that power, trying to ascend, or defy dragons, or communing with the eerie emptiness of the blight, then a mother might have found another out there in the aether. Already dying, she accepted a power that would consume, and destroy her, because she was dead anyway.
As implied, but I will be more clear on, what made this possible to change was that the potential did not disrupt flow of events more deeply etched on recurring history. Simply dragging herself to her feet meant channeling energies that would have been fatal under normal circumstances, saving her own life, avoiding the blow that killed her would have disrupted events that had already been to deeply worn into the world. Not without a great deal more power, that simply could not reach her.
One thing that I’ve toyed with, and I doubt would ever make it into the text outside of “The Blood of Kings,” which would revisit the events in the decades leading up to Book I, is that Meliae may have shown no fear in the face of a dragon landing on the property, by virtue of being a touched child. This could have lead to her mother’s death, or been a response to it, and she might not have known the difference. For those with good memories this comment may seem relevant in other ways in a few dozen chapters. Some time after the High City.
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Speaking of things planned. This closing scene has been waiting to happen forever, though nothing is exactly as it might once have been. The original plan from over a decade ago was for us to just be meeting Liora, in what was then Book I. For this staunch clarion woman to have had no patience for the new additions to the caravan, and to have left ahead. Also for us to not yet know about her history, her parents, and all that.
I think I’m a hell of a lot happier with how things have turned out, and all of this lands with a great deal more weight.
Instead she was simply out on patrol, though maybe farther afield than she was supposed to be. May well have been thinking about just leaving after all, but who knows. It was also interesting to use some of the tools over the years to help Katrisha engage the situation quickly, and while she rushes head long into it, sending up a flare is a good runner up to charging back into camp for help.
Otherwise this all played out more or less as expected, though Elise is also a wrinkle invented since this sequence was originally imagined. Etore of course was right, they weren’t done with her.
It was always intended for Katrisha to be bothered by the harm she was forced to do here. It makes sense as well for her to be bothered by Liora’s part, but she is of terribly conflicted mind, and feels a greater kinship for this woman of contrary faith, than for these acolytes of an untrusted goddess. Her first instinct, as soon as she can put herself in a place to mediate, is to do so. To try and stop the potential bloodshed.
This has always been meant to be reflected in how she fights as well. She’s actually better with fire than force, but very rarely uses it. She focuses on control, and debilitating opponents, rather than inflicting the maximum harm, particularly when she struggles to see her enemies as enemies, which is more often than not.
It’s all the more impactful than in her original intended situation with bandits, that these are people in their mind trying to help Liora. Even though their methods, and willingness to use force are unacceptable to Katrisha. To the point she is willing to throw herself in harms way to stop this from happening. In the original idea the bandits had faired much worse, though mortal wounds may have been struck, Katrisha was supposed to have been far more devastating. To have cleared their ranks, and left crying as she healed Liora.
This was also under a much older foundations of the world, and understanding of Katrisha. In the oldest ideas around the world there was something of a ‘call of chaos’ to powerful magic, and in part turning to heal Liora was supposed to be her trying to ground herself, as much as help. To bring life contrary to the destruction. Time has made this all more a simple moral juxtaposition, though that underlying emotion is still intended. Perhaps even as we see in the behavior of some godlike beings still a cost to becoming death, against one’s nature. Still, on a more human level she just played a part in doing a lot of harm, she really wants to do some unambiguous good.
This has always been an intended part of her character that comes out in different ways. It was part of the underpinnings of her seeking companionship for the night after Eastroad. She had her hand forced to become death, and so desperately wanted to feel part of something more like life, whatever social convention it defied. Her version of good.
So things have played out in different subtle ways since the old design of this scene. The emotions even more muddled, and unclear to various parties. Liora more at odds with her saviors. Notably the whole story of her trial by combat, her fallen Paladin Brothers were always intended, I’d just originally imagined them having gone separate ways. That at this point she still had a shaky sponsorship within the order, and being officially assigned to guard the caravan. Her relationship with the Order still incredibly rocky. I’d imagined her getting jerked around, and treated quite poorly by many superiors who would rather her gone. Instead she is a Paladin in name only, technically not expelled from the Order, but not really claimed either. Somewhere perhaps between a Knight Errant and a Ronin.
That probably all did happen in some other world, but the pieces keep shifting around, and in this world the Rebellion had not yet started attacking the northern road. Since it would put them more plainly in conflict with Lycia, who they would prefer be tacitly complicit of their activities in the south. As things have played out however, they are driven now primarily by recovering Liora to be in the north at all. Which might have always been the reason, though I’m not sure they always would have known.
Clarion healers (it has been covered before, more or less) do nothing for the pain. This is both pragmatic in it takes more energy to subdue the pain (generally with soothing, pleasant sensations) but also in that it is against their ethos. This is what leads to Katrisha getting slapped by Liora for just trying to help her.
I’m also not completely sure about the “matter of opinion” line landing, around them “not trying to kill” Liora. The intention under that is if they were to force her to be someone else, how is that really any different?
If anyone is curious about Kiannae’s “Oh…” moment last week, it lands a bit subtle this week with her just brooding, but we aren’t actually done with that revelation. As I was constructing this weeks chapter I found it would disrupt the flow too much, and found a more interesting use for what she stumbled into.