A Tale of Two Poems

More trouble in pairs today.  Chapter 5 currently is waffling somewhere between the titles of The Circle and Archtangent (yes thats not a misspelling, not arc, but arch.)  I’m just not sure if it’s too esoteric.  Any way, exploring each of these tones and titles, and too much noodling around has produced two poems this week I must pick between.  I’m sure I’ll work either over further.  Thoughts?

 

That an Ashton always returns, marks many an ancient stone,
though not a one were older, than a grave so far from home,
of what that weathered vigil speaks, little more can be known,
a name long washed away, counts of days by time forlorn,

oh a king bore such a name, there born of broad forest land,
tales place his end far north, in a brave and final stand,
oh an Ashton always returns, and so it was there he fell,
not on southern tower mount, but near soil freshly tilled,

oh what could this reminder promise, those passed yet fulfill,
oh how doth an Ashton return, when buried ‘pon Broken Hill,
some say the grave is of a Queen, that humble weary plot,
some say a ghost doth wander, so answers her sworn lot.

– Collected Folklore, Book III, Mercu Peregrine
A line that is straight and doth not cross,
masters claim may touch a circle but once,
such minds enlightened by Aclaedian reason,
presume the fallacy of domains flat and even,

oh march unerring ahead ‘pon a worldly globe,
let not ocean nor mountain force thy to roam,
walk straight and narrow this true noble path,
there come again to thy beginning at last,

oh look out there from whence you did start,
imagine straight lines from the surface to part,
see the paradox is not but faulty perspective,
the tangent the circle all together connected.

– The Circadian Path, 113 E.R.

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A Little Puzzle

MysteryWords.png

I’ve been working on how Sylvans write for a while now, extending off of the basic patterns established for the imperial glyph (latin alphabet to us) form of their syllable compounds.  I will give you all the following clues:

  • All of these words have appeared in the books.
    • I’m fairly sure all of them multiple times.
    • Some very, very often.
    • Not necessarily in perfect Sylvan.
  • They use a “word line” to distinguish each compound/word from the next.
    • Their version of “consonants” appear above the word line.
    • Their version of “vowels” appear below the word line.
    • Some of their “consonants” would be compounds in english.
    • Th, Ch, Sh
    • One of these appears.
  • It is some what relevant that r is both a consonant and a vowel.
    • The consonant is said as in english like rare.
    • The vowel is more of a pur, or rolled r like in french.
    • If you mess that up they will still understand, but it will come off as an accent.
    • They are drawn differently, only the vowel form appears here.
    • No one in Avrale would find this odd, partially or fully rolled rs is a common accent between both Avrale and Osyrae.
  • Modifiers work differently.
    • If a modifier exists inside a compound it breaks the word line for clarity.
    • They do not always exactly follow their consonant or vowel shape.
    • This helps differentiate them.
    • Note that while pairs are normally read top to bottom, modifiers are typically read in the reverse order.
  • Some consonants look different when they start a word.
    • There is one such here.
    • It may be the type of word at fault, I’m undecided.
  • Many glyphs were designed to bare vague likenesses to familiar letters.
  • One suffix is a peculiar syntax variant but is acceptable for the use case.
    • This is also related to common patterns in Avrale and Osyrae.
  • Remember j is pronounced kind of like zj.
    • Which is a hint there is a J here.

Any guesses?

I’m about 85% committed to how these are formed.  I’ll probably do a bit of cleanup, and tweaking though going forward, but thought I would share as is.  One of the words is quite pretty for something they don’t like.  Yes.  That’s another clue.

The Red Shadow: Book III: Interlude 4

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One of the side stories I am more dedicated to making happen (some day) takes place up north in Osyrae.  Split between the streets and royalty.  It happens in parallel to events in Book I & II.  Giving glimpses and perspective into the mysteries of those foreign affairs.

This section will partly illuminate a few secrets of a character we we are about meet in Book III.  This content is harsher than much of where we have been, but on par with where we are going.  There will be more violence, socially dubious situations, and more morally ambiguous characters.


A redheaded girl in ratty clothes moved through the streets, shifting with practiced grace between people who did not seem to notice her.  Her amber eyes glimmered, and her hand flicked a razor sharp knife across a coin purse which dumped its contents into her open palm. A few gold and silver barely made a clatter as she turned, and slipped off the street.  She counted her gains, and caught a young boy’s eyes looking up at her. He was dirtier than her, and blinking, clearly struggling to focus on her, but seemed to know she was there.

She knelt down before him and stared him in the eyes, but his glance slipped off toward the street she had just left.  She sighed, and set a silver coin in front of him with a clack. She got up and walked down the narrow alley only to stop and turn at a sharp whistle.  She glared at the boy, whose fingers were between his lips. She saw people heading towards the alley from the street behind, and bolted down the narrow passage to get away.

She burst onto busy thoroughfare, and stumbled as she tried not to get run over by a car.  Nearly lost her balance, and narrowly avoided toppling a woman carrying a large jug of water.  Something fast slipped along the edge of her vision, but she couldn’t catch what it was. She wove through the  dense traffic, and sped up as she heard clamoring footsteps behind. She couldn’t understand how they were following her.

She tried to stop as a hooded figure loomed over her, suddenly blocking her way.  She fell and rolled with the inertia, and turned back to see the figure’s hood turning to follow her.  She ducked into another alley, but again was blocked by a hooded figure. She turned back, and found a man in a midnight black coat with faint enchantments entering behind her.

He seemed to see her, the way he looked right at her, though his blue eyes did sometimes flit away before reforcing.  The girl drew her sword, and brandished both it, and her knife menacingly at the man who drew a much longer rapier, and considered her, tilting his head.  “Goodness, you are a lovely little enigma. Red hair, and a guard’s sword. A strong gift, and urchin clothes. Oh and this slippery little trick. Oh, it almost works.  It usually doesn’t on me. I know the important things are the ones easily missed.”

He lunged at her a bit casually, and she barely deflected it.

“That sword’s not the cheap kind either.  The kind they get when they retire,” he mused, and struck several more times testing her defense.  Each she blocked even as his strikes grew more precise.

“I could write off the hair, but not so many other things,” he said and jabbed suddenly.  She felt a sting on her cheek, but cleared the blow, and rolled away from the blade. “Someone’s bastard clearly, but who’s?  A ladies? Unlikely. Try as they might they have such a hard time losing you. A lords? With your gift, doubtful as well.” The two circled each other.  Every path of escape blocked, though those guarding them looked confused. “Even if you would be more easily misplaced. A bit pale perhaps. A southerner’s child?  Hard to be sure, Osyraen blood is strong. Our proud skin does not fade so easy.”

She struck that time, seeing no point in being stuck on the defensive.  He gave an illusion of effortless defense, but slowly fell back under her assault.  Seeing an opening he lunged, but his blade was brushed aside with her sword. The dagger barely nicked his enchanted garment, that still mostly did it’s job.

“Oh, I didn’t notice that little thing,” he growled.  “Left handed. Clever. Stolen from one of my own cutpurses no doubt.  Enchanted to get through even the most stubborn coin purses. Always misdirection.  This gift. The unexpected dexterity with the lesser blade. Always the least important thing to watch for.”

She twisted out of their lacked stance, and tried to make a break for it, but found the way again blocked.  She turned, and faced the only person who had drawn a blade on her.

“Sloppy, but quick,” he chided.  “Did no one teach you to do this?  I can read your attacks plain as day, and still almost miss them.  You aren’t good, not at all. Though perhaps for a child.” He took a heavy breath.  “I’d still not wager my life to try for the kill again. Will you wager yours to press me?” he asked.

“No,” the girl said, though she did not lower her guard.  “You are the one who attacked me.”

“Put away the weapons, and I will not hurt you.  We can talk, come to some kind of arrangement. You have my word.”

“I don’t trust you,” she said fiercely.

“You shouldn’t,” he said with a smile as intimidating as coy.  “I am not trustworthy, not at all. I do, however, generally keep my word.  Besides, I think you are more use to me alive.”

The girl lowered her stance, slightly.  “Your word?” she pressed.

“Yes,” the man nodded.

She put her sword away slowly, but kept the dagger in hand.  The man looked annoyed, but slipped his into a scabbard.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“No one,” the girl said, and relented to put the dagger into her belt.

“Well, No-one,” the man said.  “You, may call me Lord Camaren.”

She just gave him a spiteful look.

“Good.  Good. Seize her,” he said sharply.  She grabbed for her sword, but felt the scabbard and all ripped away.  She stumbled and fell under the force of it, reached for her dagger and found it missing too.  A hand was quickly on her shoulder before she could get up, though it seemed gloved or something out of the corner of her eye.

She tensed, but did not struggle, and the man got down on one knee.  He grabbed her chin, and brushed back his own curly black hair. “Now, then,” he said measuredly.  “Give me your name, and I promise you will get it back.”

She sneered up at him.  “You didn’t keep your word before,” she protested.

“Are you harmed?” he asked.  “Are we not talking? Am I not making you offers?”  He smiled broadly. “Can we not come to an arrangement?”

“Etore,” the girl said with reluctance.

“Family?”

“None worth mentioning,” she answered with a sneer.

“Lane it is,” he said with a shrug, and stood back up.  “Now, Miss Lane,” he said staring down at her. “Someone’s been feeding my little watchers.  Asking nothing in return. This, I could forgive. Altruism, not the most heinous of crimes. Oh but the stealing, and not paying my tax… No, no. That will not do.”

“What do you want?” Etore demanded.

“Every corner of the world has its princes.  Some sit on thrones, others carriages, but a great many live in the shadows.  We all have our taxes. We all keep things…comfortable, for those who can pay the right price.”

“So you want a tax?” Etore asked.  She mostly knew what the word meant, and it had always sounded a bit like stealing.  Seemed to fit with the position she was being put in.

“No,” he said.  “We are past taxes.  You have something I want.  Skills, or potential. Stop trying to be invisible, and follow.  If you do, you may walk freely. For now.”

Etore glared at him.  There were men tightly packed around them.  Tightly enough that even if they couldn’t see her, she would have a terrible fight getting through.  She had almost forgotten the hand holding her shoulder. One clearly could. What choice did she have?  She tried to relax, to let them see. Several of the men looked down bewilderedly, a couple of these nudged their fellows and pointed.

“Come along,” the man said, turned, and walked down the alley.

Etore got up, brushed herself off, and looked around at the men staring down at her.  She reluctantly walked after the man.

“Who are you?” she asked.  It seemed a fair enough question.

“I’m a bastard. Like you, my little shadow.  I’ve made do. My father and I have an agreement.  He doesn’t claim me, and I don’t claim him. Might not sound like the best deal, I admit, but trust me, he’s more trouble than he’s worth.”

“You his little errand boy?” she tried.  It didn’t feel smart, but she was used to mocking those who thought they were above her.

He huffed more in amusement than insult.  “Oh, we occasionally try to make some use of the other.  To get what we want, but mostly, we have an agreement of ignorance being bliss.”  He finished on a low growl.

They exited the alley, and he glance up and down the lane, then turned left.  Etore considered making a break for it, but felt a hand again on her shoulder.  She winced, and followed. He stopped before a door, through which could be heard rowdy music, and the occasional holler or cheer.  The Red Raven was carved in a sign above. A woman lounged along the titular bird’s back. The Clamor grew louder as Camaren opened the door.  She stared him down a moment, but relented to walk in ahead of him.

A bare chested lady was playing a lute on a stage.  Another swirled scarfs through the air, and danced naked, and provocatively amidst the spellbound cloth.  A scarf licked along the player’s cheek, and she leaned into it, which got a chuckle out of the crowd watching the show.  Though some were distracted by women on their laps, or grabbing the occasional rear of a waitress as she tried to serve their drinks.

Etore looked at the scene in bewilderment.

“Move along,” the man said.

A large bare chested man by the door suddenly stood up, displacing the woman in his lap.  He bowed to Camaren, having noticed who had entered. The man regarded the guard coldly, then turned back to Etore again.

“Move along,” he repeated, and Etore did as she was bid.  Her eyes fell to the floor.

“You like what you see?”  The man asked behind her. “You’ll be pretty enough I think.  Clean up quite nicely, when you are old enough. Or at least, when no one asks if you are old enough.”

She turned and gave him a hateful sneer.

“No, no.  Too much fight in you,” he laughed.  “Guess some might like that, but I prefer repeat customers, over dead ones.  Maybe you’d like to kill a few of them. Ones that deserve it of course?”

She shrunk back slightly on her heels.

He just smirked.  “I’ve always found it funny, teach a child to kill, so few bat an eye.  Teach one a gentler way to make a living, and everyone calls you a monster.  Well, who am I to break tradition?” He shrugged. “Follow,” he said his vener of joviality dropping, and walked past her into the back of the establishment.

She followed more timidly.  Trying to let herself blend in amidst the noise, and bluster of the place.  Fade into the background. She wasn’t sure how it worked, just, felt like a way to tense, then relax, and vanish.  To not matter, and if she did not matter, she could do as she pleased. Again, a hand on her shoulder. She stopped, and let the power go.  Though her eyes tried to make sense of of the hand before it slipped away again. She wanted to turn, and see who it was. Who always knew what she was about to do, but thought it wasn’t important, and continued to follow Camaren.

He pushed open a door, and stared a moment through it.  A woman half dressed, and a man scurried out rather frantically.  He shook his head and walked in. Etore hesitated, afraid what she was being lead to.  What kind of establishment the place was giving her no peace.

Etore felt a nudge at her shoulder, and walked forward into a room with a desk, some book shelves, and a cadey of spirits.  The man plucked up a bottle, checked a glass, and poured himself a drink. “So. What will it be? Assassin? Seems fitting to your gifts.  I could send you to a finishing school for courtesans in waiting. Or are you hung up on this thief thing? The pay isn’t good. Well, unless you are very good.”  He took a drink. “Maybe all of the above, if you are good enough.”

Etore grimaced.  She liked none of the options.  She was through being under some man’s thumb.  She had won her freedom, and taken the man’s sword as a prize, and now that had been taken from her.

“You promised my sword back,” Etore challenged him.

“I did.  Though when is an open question.”  He swirled and sipped his drink. “Choose.  I mean there is another option, but I don’t think either us would like that.  Do you?”

“I’m not a killer,” Etore said.  “Just a thief, stealing from the likes of you.”

He sighed, and shook his head.  “There are better targets than me, child.  Certainly wiser ones.” He stood, and straightened himself before finishing his drink.  “Still. Thief, it seems it is. Though I won’t be wasting those skill. Take her to a cell.”

A hand grabbed her shoulder, and pulled her back into the hall.  She was marched down, and then up to an open door. She stared into the dark room, and broke free of the grip holding her.  Something brushed her arm, and when she turned to see what the man behind shoved her through the door. Etore got quickly back to her feet, as her scabbard and sword was thrown in after her.  The door slammed behind it. Etore scrambled to the blade, and clutched it to her chest, wondering what sense there could be in giving it to her. She didn’t feel like the man’s word was worth all that much.

She heard a sound behind her, and rolled to the side through some straw.  She drew her blade, and dropped the scabbard, striking her body low to the ground on instinct.

“You move like a Unka,” a man in the shadows said with a rumble, and he could almost slip from her vision.  “Yet you have no control,” her eyes slipped, and he was behind her, something pointy pressed into her back, a hand holding her shoulder.  The same seemingly gloved hand, though her head struggled with the impression.

“How?” Etore said trembling.

“You see what you think I did.  Where you think I was,” he whispered in her ear with a literal growl.  “Where I would have been, if I kept talking. If I kept lecturing without example.”  He pushed her, and in her position she could not stay upright.

Etore took the force, fell forward, and rolled to face him.  The hooded figure held a wooden short sword pointed at her. He flipped it in his hand, caught the dull blade, and tossed it to her.  She caught it effortlessly.

“Sloppy,” he growled, and she noticed a slight glimmer beneath the hood.  “Three tries.”

“What?” Etore demanded.  She’d caught it, perfectly.

“You don’t even know you are doing it,” the man pulled back his hood as though in shock.  This revealed a head more like an alley cat than a man. Gray with black stripes, and shining amber eyes that glinted in the dim light.  Like a skeletal caricature of a drawing in a book her mother had once brought home.

“Te’myn,” she said in disbelief.

He tilted his head.  “So you know the legends.  So few do these days. Do you know the meaning?”

“True skin,” Etore said with some doubt.

“Such a sense of humors my father’s people,” the man laughed without much humor.  “Calling the smallest number of their kind true skin. I am Tumyn, though most call me Old Tom.  Even when I was a child.” He started to pace around her. “Gray hair, and all that. I’m almost living up to it now.”  He picked at his sharp teeth with a claw.

“Do I take it you intend to train me?” Etore asked.

“Such are my commands.  I get what freedom I have, by obeying.”  He ran his finger along a collar that was clearly enchanted in some way.  “You will do the same, or you will find you have far less pleasant opportunities.”

“Just with this?” Etore asked.

“No, you’ve given master trouble with a single worthwhile blade.  Almost got him with that little enchanted knife, if I hadn’t pulled him out of the way.  I struggle to push him any more. He is a very good student. Use both.” He finished almost dismissively.

Etore switched hands, giving reach to the right, and the lighter more nimble wooden blade to the left.

“Master is right.  Always misdirection.  A true Unka at heart. Perhaps you were one of us, in some other life.  The Ki does not belong to one people, it is the world. We are all her children.”

He took up a sword leaned against the wall, and vanished.  Etore barely blocked the blow as she felt a sting in her shoulder.

“Two tries, sloppy,” he hissed, and swung in rapid succession. Etore blocked, but with each swing she felt a sting.  “Two. Three. Four. Two. Three. Two.” He stopped, and gave what might have been a toothy smile. “One. Good.”

She had caught his blade with her wooden sword.  Both enchanted, and she noticed the glint of steel hidden beneath the wood of his.

“What?” Etore said, and stared at the false training sword’s cutting edge.

“A beating taught you, I think.  I can sense it on you. I know it well.  A cut, teaches far better.” He pulled back, and drew a claw along the sharp blade edge making a slight ring.  “If you fail to even make the move, I pull back. Only had to do that twice. It took master a month to be that good.”

Etore stood cautiously, not sure she understood what he was saying.

“My father was Osmak, life-taker, assassin is your imperial word.  Though a true Unka would never dull their senses with an herb. He was a master of death.  Before he failed to kill a woman he was commanded. Till they fled Sylvan land’s, and were made slaves of Osyraen lords.  Their foolish love torn apart. Bread as the masters pleased. I am his commanded progeny. Sired upon some servant girl the Lady liked to play games with.  Oh the Lady loved her games. To live is to obey. To obey, sometimes, is to kill. Sometimes to make life, or the like.”

“I’m not a killer,” Etore growled.  “Nor a whore.”

“A fool then.” Tumyn struck with fury.

Etore’s skin began to burn with the stings, but she blocked every blow.  Then he vanished, and a sharp pain struck her side.

“I will kill you,” he growled.  “As many times as I have to.”

She dropped the wooden blade in shock, and clutched her side, her hand coming back bloody.  She took the longer real blade in her left hand, and when he struck again each parry brought slashes of pain across her face, her neck, her side.  He would vanish and she would block from the side only to feel a sharp jab into her. She dropped rolled, brought up the training sword again in her right, and caught his swings that grew much more terrifying.  Sweeps skipping, coming from opposing directions, she screamed in fury and frustration, even as she saw six ways to strike. She tried each at once.

Her wooden sword was torn from her hand, and the real sword caught beneath a boot.

“Good,” the cat man huffed.  “Very good,” he said more intently.  He took a measured breath. “I felt that one.”  He smiled, and offered her a hand, even as his sharp blade was still pointed at her face.

She took the hand, and he put his blade away.  “I have been looking for a true apprentice for decades.  Since my father died in the master’s war, and my Lady with him.  Our master will be pleased. When I lie to him. Tell him you have only so much potential as he.  You might even surpass me. Stick to your first hand for now, we will come back to the other instinct.”

Allusions at Hand: Book III: Interlude 3

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I’ve been very busy.  Art, work, side gigs, PT.  The cover for and reworking the early parts of Book III that I have.  It’s weird how well the general structure still works, as new things intrude.  Yet I knew long before, this was where I was going.  I just arrived with unexpected company.

This week a glimpse at a book I might someday write, if I ever run out of more important things to do.  Next week maybe a glimpse at a book I’m more dedicated to finding the time for, and introduce a character we will be getting to know a lot better in Book III.

For this week a glance backwards.  I occasionally toy with the idea of a book starring Mercu as a young man trying to find his place.  A man of secrets, and hidden talents.  Blessed with a silver tongue, and a knack for getting in, and out of trouble.  I’m not sure enough exactly what it would look like, so for now, have this.  Which might even be an opening to such a book.


HandSingle_Reversed.png

Allusions at Hand

“What’s your name boy?”

A young man with dusty brown hair stopped, cringed, but turned and stared the woman down.  “Shouldn’t you know, seer?”

“I could pick your father from a crowd, even if I didn’t know him.  Ferus. I can tell you your mother is not with us. Though, hmm. Yes, she thought your name should not be his.  Though similar, she consented to.  Mercu, because it sounded posh, and Palentian. It means swift flowing, his means iron. Oh the irony…” She sighed and smiled. “Soul of a poet, you like that, swift traveler, and a hand that captures the eye.  I know what card I would draw from my deck for you. I know it would find its way to my grasp.”

“If you know my father, then you know he told me to stay away from you.”

“Oh, you don’t always do what he says, do you?”  She plucked a card from the top of her deck, and set it before him.  It was a woman, her chest exposed, a reversed bust more modest on the other end.  The card was upside down. “Already been with a girl.”

“You are wrong about that,” Mercu snapped.

“So I am.  Oh, who was it?  Sorry, pretty enough to’ve been.”  The old woman hummed, and closed her eyes.  “Oh, that Red Sister’s son. Cheeky lad. They had to leave after that father came complaining.  Well, at the next town.”

Mercu froze, his breath caught, and then he ran.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

“You aren’t going to tell on me, are you?” Mercu asked sheepishly, as he approached the old woman absently shuffling her cards.

“Tell on you, is precisely what I propose to do,” she said wobbling her head with some amusement.  “Tellers they sometimes call us, not seers. We see, whether we tell. One is what I am, the other what I do.”

“Please, don’t tell my father.”

“Then listen,” she said and offered him an imposing glance.

Mercu cringed, looked away, and then sat at the woman’s table.

She plucked a card again, and placed it before him.  Again, the Queen was the card, but this time right side up.

“You don’t shuffle very well.”

She placed the card back on the pile, then picked it up again, it was a King.  She set it before him reversed. “You are not what you appear.”

Mercu gave her an incredulous look.  “And what do I appear?”

“A mask, that is honest.  A lie that is true. You want nothing more than to please, and yet who you are will displease so many.  You play games, because it is the only way you can be kind. You, are a seer, not a teller. A snoop, and a meddler.  You know the ways people are broken, and love them anyway. You are not a man.”

“Are you trying to insult me?” he said sitting up more straight.

“Are you insulted?” she said with a knowing grin.

Mercu hesitated, and just stared at her defiantly, crossing his arms.

She shook her head, and took another card from the pile.  It was again the Queen, face up. She set it atop the king.  “Masks, you will always be a person of masks. Performances, both the ones you desire to give, and the ones you feel you must.”

“Name the next card,” the woman said, after a brief pause had begun to confuse him.

“I don’t know your stupid game!” Mercu said clenching his fists.

“Stop,” the woman said measuredly, “describe it,” she added through gritted teeth.

Mercu cringed at her intensity.  “I don’t know, a star. You mystical types like stars, don’t you?”

She plucked a card from the deck, and placed it beneath the King and Queen.  ‘The North Star,’ was printed across the bottom.

“You can draw whatever you please, I think you proved that already… However you do it.”

She quickly laid a card to the right, and to the left, one below the star, one each to the left, and right again.  Seven placements, and five still face down.

“This card,” she said, to the right of The North Star.

“I don’t know, flip a coin,” Mercu said tersely.

She turned it over, and there was a coin, upside down.

Mercu stared at her.  He had seen magic do a lot of things.  He had even glimpsed something when the King had replaced the Queen, but there, he was almost sure, she had done nothing.  No magic, and no sleight of hand. “How?”

“What is a prince without the gift?” the woman asked.

“An heir more likely to take the throne,” Mercu cut back.

“Oh, as if you want your father’s throne.  You are jealous of your sister. A man jealous of a woman, because she is free of this weight on your shoulders.  He would support her being an artist, a writer, a historian. Maybe even forgive her if she had the inclination to the occasion woman, she mostly doesn’t.  You, are his heir. An heir to a line of Trade Princess, so old they fade into legend, not even history. Your very name given to birds who wander, not the other way about.  Yet you, look in her eyes, and you see she wants to rule this world. You are jealous, even of her ambition, but yours are so much grander, aren’t they?”

“How?” Mercu muttered, her words cut like knives, but he could not pull away.

She indicated the next card.

“The Moon,” he said he said under his breath, not even sure why.  No flippant answer, just, he knew it must be.

She turned up the card, and there it was.

“How literal.  How figurative.  The sun is power, and fury, but you would rather be the mirror.  The moon endures by waxing, and waning. You know the true power in this world, that true change must come slowly.  You know that rhythm, and story disarm. That clever words open ears, and other things. You even know that’s what I’m doing.  That the mysticism, the rhymes are tools. Flirtations that make us take note. The cards are tools. I do not choose the card I draw, I know the card I must.  It is a tool, a measuring stick, not what is measured. You know the stars do not tell our fate, but that they do align. That the moon’s wavering, is but the spiral of worlds, and yet she set the tide.  You are reason, amidst flights of fancy.”

She pointed to another card.

“The Tree,” she said, turning over the card below The Star.  “The Ash of Autumn.”

It was her turn to look at him strangely.  “You are what is measured by. A fixed point.  A landmark, the world changes around you, as the true travelers pass you by.  You are shade, on a hot summer day. You are the canopy, that holds the winter snow at bay.  Evergreen, and yet oh so ever mortal. Someone has built a castle beside you.”

She pointed to the next card.

“Why are you trying to make a fool of me?” he demanded.  Feeling like he was under some spell, and trying to break free.

She smirked, and turned the card over.  The Fool. Though it was reversed, a thing that took a moment given the figure stood at a crossroads, standing inverted, not upon the ground, but feet planted firmly on the precarious boards of the sign.

“You, are the one who plays the fool.  You know the world is mad, and a sane man in such a world, is the fool in the eyes of of the blind.  You see the world for what it is, but you keep your secrets, from those not ready to know. Always honest in your way, no matter how readily you mislead.  The truth, will not always be heard. The inevitable accepted, only when it comes.”

She indicated the last card.

“The Tower,” Mercu said, and closed his eyes.  “Like a rook. The chess piece.”

The woman nodded, and did not even turn the card over.  “You will teach the Fates themselves to play. The unsung hero, the bard.  In the structure of society, the fools know the truth. We are all fools. We all fool ourselves.  Arrogance, will be your enemy, for confidence will be your friend. You will love a woman dearly. You will have her heart completely.  She would marry you, and give you an heir and knight. Yet the confidence of your love, will be too much, and she will never believe she could love you so.  Duty, and love. Each will choose the other. She is not your fate. You will love a man dearly, but you will never be only his. You will wear the masque, and make it true.  A…”

“Leave him be, Cassandra!” a man said angrily marching up on them.  “I told you boy, don’t mess with seers.” He huffed, and then looked up from Mercu to the woman.  “Did he pay?” the man demanded, and slammed his fist down on the table.

Cassandra just smiled.

He slammed a gold coin on the table.  “Don’t toy with my boy,” he said fiercely.  “You were paid. Don’t meddle.”

She turned the last card upright.  It was a hand with an eye emblazoned upon the back.  It was reversed, with ‘The Hand’ written upside down.

“I want a contract,” the woman said.  “Not a coin. A seat, not a salary. You know no caravan travels long without a seer.  I will not make the boy a pawn, if you make me a Queen.”

“What?  Are you proposing…” the man looked utterly bewildered.

“Fates, you are literal Ferus.  No, you old bandit, not that. But it is a contract, all the same.  I marry your caravan, not you. Seven years to start. I keep the flies away, I lure in those who want to see.  I keep my hands off your boy, and theirs as well. I’ve already spoiled one love affair you wouldn’t have approved.  Sure you wouldn’t like me to foil the other?” She tilted her head to the side in an unnerving way.

“I will have your contract in the morning,” Ferus said through gritted teeth.

The man took Mercu’s hand, and tried to pull him away.

She set her hand on his as he resisted just out of spite for his father’s behavior.  “What you make of yourself, is your own affair.” Mercu stopped resisting in surprise.

“I’m watching you woman!” his father snapped, and spun around to point at her.

“Contract isn’t signed yet,” she said with a shrug.  “Hurry, hurry.”

They walked in silence a good twenty paces before Ferus let his son’s hand go.

“If you hate seers so much, why do you let them in the caravan?” Mercu asked with irritation at his father.

“Better the pits† you know,” Ferus muttered.  “They find their way in, one way or another. Like fleas on a dog.”


Commentary: †I originally wrote the line Abyss, to carry through with the mythos. but then took a step back and considered the possible derivations of the etymology of such use.  Pitted roads to a caravan master might weight another synonym in for the Abyss, taking a step away from the Devil allegory, and looking to a more material, pragmatic expression.

Fools May Tread: Book III: Interlude 2

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I’ve imagined this scene for incredibly long time, but always kind of known it wouldn’t go in.  It sets the stage for the begging of Book III, but that book has always begun one way, and just doesn’t leave room for this little encounter between old friends that were never quite more.  If you will forgive ‘more’ in relation to friendship and romance. One can have a lover who is not really a friend. One can certainly have a friend who is not a lover. I don’t think though that it is unfair to imply that the combination is more than one or the other, without arguing too much about relativistic feelings on love and friendship.  A complex topic to say the least. This occurs fairly soon before the start of Book III, sans some necessary travel time. I won’t give it a precise date to avoid sorting the logistics of that.


 

Fools May Tread

The Blight.  It wasn’t always called this, and in all likelihood the name would pass again into obscurity.  Seen from high above the world one might see some resemblance to a depiction of a complex mathematical set, plotted roughly in the dead trees of the once vibrant Evergrove.  The spread had stopped. The damage done lingered. Quite in spite of the best efforts of some of the worlds greatest minds, who owed what success they found to the work, and peril of one young woman.

Kiannae Ashton.  Raven haired, and a bit tall for a woman, or even a man of her native Avrale.  Her sun touched skin could almost hide the freckles around her nose, and emerald eyes just the least bit off the mark from human.  She had always had a tendency towards being a loner, and so to noone’s surprise sat on a marker stone, well apart from friend or foe.

Spellwork glowed around her, visible to even ungifted yes.  Living grass spread, and sprouted beneath her chosen seat. A flower cropped up amidst it, and turned her eye.  The presence approaching had not. Mostly out of indifference. She had thought he felt familiar. She looked up on the face of a young man who stood with trepidation at the edge of her freshly grown lawn.

“You’ve a lot of nerve,” she said.  “Sneaking up on me again, after all these years.”

“As if I could ever sneak up on you,” Zale answered.

She stood up, and stepped through her spell work without a care.  It dissolved, and swirled around her. The rapid growth ceased.

“You really did all that?” he asked, and noticed that she was maybe even a little taller than he remembered.

“All that?” she said with ill humor, gesturing behind her.  “Oh yes, probably. You’d have seen it, if you stuck around.”

“I’m not here to fight,” Zale protested.

“Why are you here?”

“Because someone asked – very nicely – that I please convince the crazy girl to stop antagonizing the Storm Queen.  Sitting right on her border. I told Landri, that if she thought I could convince you of anything, she was out of her mind.”

“I’m not antagonizing the Storm Queen,” Kiannae said.

Zale gestured exasperatedly at the sky.  “That’s a dragon! Up there! On the borders of Niven, for all the further trouble that makes.  Don’t try and tell me it’s some coincidence.”

“Oh, what?” Kiannae looked up as though surprised.  “Calista? Eh. She’s an old friend. Gentle as a kitten.  She circles overhead on the border, while I sit here on a rock.  We chat at least twice a day. Commiserate over all the unnecessary fuss everyone makes over it.”

“So you, just chat, with an ancient dragon?” Zale said incredulously.  “Daily occurrence for you now. Is it? Do you think I’ve gone daft since we last met?”

Kiannae smirked.  “I wouldn’t say gone, no.  Fairly sure you started there.”

“Don’t flirt, or, whatever this is,” Zale said exasperatedly.  “Nothing’s changed. Well, except, I’m sure you are sleeping with him now.”

“Not much sleeping,” Kiannae said.  “Though, he did figure out how to, eventually.  So I guess, now and then.” Her nonchalant facade held for a moment, before her gaze fell, and she brushed back her hair.

“What do you hope to gain?” Zale asked.

Kiannae just pointed towards the horizon.

Zale looked where eyes most often did not want to go.  A massive tree that stood like a mountain over the low plain of the blight.

“It’s nearly a thousand feet tall,” Kiannae said.  “Reportedly still growing. A little less than a foot a day since it sprouted. Since… Shadow gave his life for my mistakes.”

“You can’t possibly be taking credit, or blame, for that…thing,” Zale said.  “I had heard the stories. I knew, you had to be involved, but, that’s not something a person does!”

“Who said I’m a person?” Kiannae challenged irritably.

“Me,” he said tersely, sighed, covered his face and shook his head.

Kiannae stared at him definitely, but when he did not meet her gaze, she turned away.  “I think it’s all my fault.”

“All?” he asked, legitimately doubting the scope of her claim.

“Literally, everything,” Kiannae said.  “I remember it. A world without Osyrae breathing down our necks.  Growing up in the cloister…my…first kiss. Fates, I’m sure you would love to know about that, wouldn’t you?  Not at all who you would expect. All these little things that didn’t play out the same, and all these horrors that never were.  I don’t know how any of it fits, but I know it’s all my fault. Prophecy is one thing, but now I see pasts that never were. Tell me, is that a gifted practice, or just madness?”

“What happened?” Zale asked, and stepped a bit closer.

“I’m glad you left,” Kiannae said crossing her arms.

“Because, ‘A great many people would have to die around you,’” Zale quoted as best he could, not taking the bait of the obvious meaning.  “Before anyone offered you a crown?”

“Maybe you do listen, after all,” Kiannae grumbled.

“And I hear too,” Zale said.  “I hear you were offered one, and turned it down.”  He took a breath. “I found that seer. When I went back through Thebes, after I left.  I paid him back his two silver, for the rest of that reading. Not sure it was worth it, but, he told me what you wouldn’t have listened to.  That your sister was alive. That I had walked in the circles of gods. He told me things I knew somehow in my heart, and yet still do not believe.  Even now. I knew something far simpler. You had made up your mind.” He set his hand on her shoulder.

“Had I?” Kiannae said, and turned around, to stare him down.  “I don’t trust prophecy, but that out there. That isn’t the future.  It’s the past. I want to understand what happened. What is still happening, but the Storm Queen will permit no one, certainly not from outside Napir examine it.  Least of all me. I offended her it seems, rejecting her son.”

“What happened,” Zale said rhetorically, ignoring her intractable implications, and focusing on her first challenge.  “A man knew he could not compete, not with a living part of your own will.”

“Who said you had to compete?” Kiannae asked.  “Seems my sister is fond enough of wandering fancy.  Maybe, I should have just taken you all up. Let you all decide to stay, or go.  Kept you like pets. That’s what you called Taloe, isn’t it?”

“You aren’t her though, are you?” Zale countered.  Pushing past the distractions. He remembered how it worked.  Focus on the detail in front of you, not the deflections around it.

She turned, and walked back to her rock in a huff.  “This doesn’t end well,” Kiannae said.

“Nothing ever ends well,” Zale said.  “The ends are all the same. It’s the living, that makes the story.  What lies between the beginning, and the end. We begin in nothing, we end, in that which we did with our lives.  We end, when we stop making those differences.”

“Fates,” Kiannae muttered, but kept staring south.  “When did you get so verbose?”

“I’ve had a lot of time on the road.  Working a few hours a day, traveling or waiting the rest.  Not much else to do, but play with the wind, and read. I’ve found the writings of Sylvia get a man a long way, with, some women.  She made a life out of loving them after all.”

“Some, women,” Kiannae stressed.

“I’m not here to fight,” Zale repeated, “and I can’t imagine being with you, as anything but a fight.”

“Then why – I ask again – are you here?”

“I met some druids coming south from Lundan, on the way into Niven.  Quiet lot for the most part, but I heard them gossiping amongst themselves that the Archdruid is talking about doing rounds of the local kingdoms.  It’s not…typical to make such visits. I saw my grandfather last year, and am not keen to indulge him on some final tour, but, that would mean he is visiting Avrale.  I thought you might like to know.”

“Wouldn’t he have already done it?” Kiannae asked.

“It’s not usual, he wouldn’t rush something like this.  You’ve at least till the spring.”

“Not like I’m getting anywhere here,” Kiannae said.

“The growth…”  He hesitated. “You did that with a spell? Seems like somewhere to me.  I didn’t even think that was possible”

“I knew the quote,” Kiannae said.  “My sister gave me a copy of that book.  That woman claimed to have done no less. She started on plants, when she burned herself trying the first time.”

“I hadn’t read that version,” Zale offered.

“I didn’t do much.  Just followed the patterns already here.  Someone did this. Whether it really is a spell as big as the world, or just this, I can’t tell.  The Evergrove was built. It was a spell. It…made everything grow, and dire creatures sprang up, and learned what it had to teach.”

“What dire creatures?”

“Dryads.  Not like near Lundan, but, I can’t say if they might have been intelligent, in some other way.  The spell doesn’t go all that far, but the dryads cast it themselves. Much like the fungus we have almost wiped out.  Were both in some sense intelligent? I raised dire wolves. Animals, who were, more like people. Or are we all more like animals than we admit.  Just a fire, trying to burn out our fuel? All stories end the same. That’s the phrase, right? Spells and people, stars and worlds. We all end the same.  At least in that we all end. Everything ends.”

“If the story does not end, then how does next begin?” Zale countered.

“That, doesn’t sound like Sylvia,” Kiannae said curiously, and half looked back over her shoulder.

“Clarion, Saint Darius of the Ascension,” he answered.  “I had a lot of time to read.”

Kiannae flopped back onto the stone, and caught her head in a spell.  She stared at him upside down. “I did love you,” she said. “You insufferable boy.”  She sighed. “Fine. I’m not accomplishing anything further here. I’ll head to Avrale, see if I can’t get there ahead of your grandfather, and greet him properly.  I leave it to you, to inform Landri she’s not out of her mind.”

She smiled a bit to broadly.  “Oh, but first, I’m going to introduce you to a dragon.”  She put her fingers between her lips, and made a sharp whistle.

To Rival All Others: Book III: Interlude 1

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Lovers.png

I currently have a few Interludes planned between Book II and Book III as filler while I get on track for the next.  All extraneous content that might be of interest, but is not critical enough to the plot to make the cut where it belongs.

This scene would have been utterly indulgent to include, no matter how tame, and simply leading it is.  Take that as you will. It wasn’t necessary, and another vignette is not something chapter 28 needed. I guess each of the interludes is about relationships, and the complicated places we can find ourselves in them.  Particularly if one tries to square their feelings, with their bias. It’s a natural thing to ponder the emotions of being in such a situation, from all sides. Each bringing a different view.

When precisely this occurs is open for debate.  Some time before the end of Book II. Likely late 650 or early 651.  One needs to keep warm on those cold winter nights after all. A slice of life with some personal impact, but few dramatic consequences.

If the romantic negotiations of complex relationships are not your thing.  Take it or leave it as you will.

 


 

To Rival All Others

Celia looked up after a knock at the door.  She set her book aside, and strode across the chamber unsure who would be calling.  She felt a presence as she set her hand to the handle. It was slight, familiar perhaps, but she wasn’t sure.  She opened the door, and was greeted by Maeren’s insecure but far from timid eyes. Her arm across her chest, rubbing her left nervously, as each woman adopted hard to read expressions.

They stood there in silence a moment, each trying to find the measure of the other.  One more conflicted, the other more hesitant.

“May I come in?” Maeren finally asked.

“Seems I already made such arrangement, didn’t I?” Celia offered somewhat dismissively.  She stepped back, when she realized she still stood in the way, and Maeren walked in. Her manner notably sheepish.

Celia closed the door, and the other woman stood there, with her back to her.  Clearly struggling to stop fidgeting.

“You do know she loves you?  Don’t you?” Maeren asked, not turning around.

“Yes,” Celia answered, though her conviction was lacking.

Maeren turned, a sad smile on her lips.  “But you are jealous,” she added.

“We all have our weaknesses,” Celia answered with a measured, almost embarrassed breath.

Maeren stepped closer, and Celia grew more rigid.  “She loves me as well. Far more than is at all reasonable.  Some silly errant maid. One who insists she share me with others, I just can’t let go of.  Just as you insisted she share her boundless heart, if she found the inclination.”

“What,” Celia started, then swallowed, “is your point?”

“I will not steal her away from you.  She would never choose, not between us.  If either of us were to ask… I have little doubt it would completely break her heart.”

“So do you propose we choose for her?” Celia wagered uncomfortably.

“No.”  Maeren laughed.  “Quite the opposite.”  She stepped closer again, and reached out her hand.  Celia winced, but did not pull away, and Maeren set her palm to the other woman’s cheek.

“What do you want?” Celia asked, her eyes falling.

“I love her.  Like I love few others,” Maeren said.  “I saw that night how much you loved her.  I saw,” she said, momentarily overcome, “when you asked me to stay, clearly in spite of your own uncertainty, how very much you love her.”

“That,” Celia started, closed her eyes, and took a breath.  “That, with the woman we both love, on death’s door, I asked you to stay, does not mean… I…”  She opened them again, and stared defiantly at the other woman.

“Why not?” Maeren pressed.

“You do know I am with someone else, right?” Celia protested a bemused look on her face.

“Hardly an argument against, I would think,” Maeren teased.

Celia glared at her.

“Whose rules are you playing by?” Maeren asked.

“Who said it’s a game?” Celia countered harshly.

“Isn’t it fun?” Maeren teased again.  “Don’t you laugh, and giggle, and smile?”

“And cry, and cling, and worry, and worry,” Celia countered, but it felt hollow.  However pained she clearly was. She knew why. She knew her argument wouldn’t win, not even in her own head.

“Didn’t we that night?” Maeren pressed, and leaned just a little closer.  “Both with our hands on her heart, cling, and worry, and cry.”

Celia found nothing to answer that, and the presence of the other woman was completely disarming.  To the point of being suspect. She had felt it before, asked a Red Sister what it felt like. How they could use their gift to nudge another’s desire.

“She’s lent me that book of your faith,” Maeren added.  “I have found absolute solace in it. More than the spiteful rules I was raised in.  So much more like the ones I follow in through the shadows of this court.” She hesitated. “Do you find me attractive?” she challenged suddenly.

“Even without your help,” Celia said tersely, using the admission to put Maeren off her guard by the coupled accusation.  It worked, and Celia felt the change.

“What?” Maeren said surprised by the tone, but not quite understanding.

“You have a presence,” Celia said with clear frustration, but found herself leaning forward.  “Presence, implies gift. Gift, that you have learned to use to your advantage in the most…” she let her breath go, and pulled away.  “I’d call it clever, if I thought you had any idea you were doing it.”

“Doing, what?” Maeren demanded, as Celia broke free of her gravity, marched around her.  She stopped and stewed in the middle of the room. “Has anyone ever told you no?” Celia demanded.

“Yes,” Maeren said almost bewildered by the question.

Celia spun, and stepped back towards her.  A profound presence washing over the woman like a warm wonderful blanket.  A soft silken sensation that slid over the skin delightfully. “And did even one stick to it?” she asked almost breathlessly.

Maeren bit her lip.  “I…” she stammered, and tried to think back, but all she wanted was to kiss the woman in front of her, not think of others.  It was slippery. She felt sure, maybe. So many on first brush had found her forward, or repovered her, and then some other day changed their mind.  Offered, asked, often so nervously. Who, or which, wasn’t interesting. The moment she was in seemed all consuming. “I don’t know,” she answered nervously.

“It’s not control,” Celia said, her presence letting up, but not fully.  “It is so the opposite of control, and it is the easiest of things to learn by instinct.”  She stepped back, and turned away. “I shouldn’t have done that,” she muttered irritably.

“Why?” Maeren asked, flustered, and lacking any confidence.

“Because it isn’t one sided.  I don’t even think it can be.”

Maeren followed, and put her hand on the other woman’s shoulder.  “You said…implied that night,” Maeren started, and hesitated. “That gift…lets one convince the will, of what the body is already willing.”  She huffed. “That is how it works, yes? And you have to feel it yourself, to impart it, at least something this complex.”

Celia pulled away.  “If you think Katrisha did not tell me, in absolute detail, what you two have already shared, and how, you are very mistaken.  I have read the Red Book as well,” Celia said avoiding a direct answer. “Read it, again, and again. It does not define my faith, but to say it does not align…”  She turned, and stared with very mixed determination into the other woman’s eyes. “My mind, agrees. My body, agrees. My heart, remains unsettled. I love her. She, I think is closer to such faith than I may ever be.  So much more like…” She grimaced a bit at that, tempted to derail the conversation in distraction, and mire it in awkward discomfort. “You, for all I want to be jealous…”

“Yes?” Maeren pressed.

“It’s funny,” she said nervously, turning, and pacing.  “How small she makes me feel. Two years ago, she was taller than me, and now I am just a hair taller than her.  She still makes me feel small. I love her like I could love no one. I promised her…everything that I am, and I have already broken that promise.  Because I love her, and cannot tell her that I fear her, and fear for her. That what you offer appeals to me, and frustrates me. That I cannot own her, do not want to, and would give…almost anything in this world if I thought I could.”

“She,” Maeren hesitated.  She caught Celia’s hand, and waited till she relented to look her in the eye.  “She told me one morning. Pleaded with me to stay with her that day. Joked that…if a land can have two Queens, then why not three?  It was a joke, I think only in what she would not do, to become Queen, with her two consorts. The rest I do not think a jest in the least.  She loves us both, far more than I think either of us will ever know what to do with.”

“What do you want?” Celia pressed.

“You’ve said you know what she and I have shared,” Maeren said.  “It was fun. It was a game. I want to give her something more than that.  To etch myself onto her heart. To sear the memory of me – of us – onto her soul.  As she has done to mine. Yet how does one outshine the sun?” Maeren laughed.

“Or a moon so much brighter than any star.”  A funny smile crossed Celia’s lips. “Convince me, that I would not regret this.  That together we could make her never forget us.”

Maeren pulled her closer, lay her hand on her cheek, and stood there, waiting, until Celia kissed her.  It was quite some breathless time, till a door opened, and two sets of eyes turned nervously to an expected intruder.  Each filled with hope, and fear.

Katrisha could never have quite answered – not in that moment – if her heart broke, or finally felt pieced back together.  She put her hand to her chest. Made sure some effect of the poison had not returned. She found no such excuse, turned, bit her lip, then closed and sealed the door with a spell.

 


Commentary:  It is tempting to go on at length about the mechanisms in play here.  Everything from empathic mirroring to, differing social norms. Defense of position, respect, and rivalry.  Inverse perspectives of faith, and challenges to that faith. Self aware dogma that to love defiantly of convention, is to offer singular love as defiance against that convention.  Further to know those conventions, is to still be impacted by them. To be taught a path, and to be educated in the opposing view to recognize it, is to know that path is there. That it is convention.

I am trying to capture with subtlety that Celia’s upbringing makes her actually guilty that she is not the one pushing for this, let alone resistant.  This implied offer aligns with what she feels she should believe. As arbitrary as the guilt of desire in one who has been trained to abstain.

Two points on a spectrum, one who was taught to be open to such ideas, but in her heart longs for a singular importance in her lovers eyes.  One who was taught to be a proper Clarion girl, but found her solace in quite the opposite. When in a moment of tenderness she found joy again in her sometimes harsh life.

We only get a glimpse of Katrisha’s reaction, and I think I will leave the description as it stands.  Particularly as Book II concludes, and it is revealed time marches on.  Each section offering a lens through which to see the other.  Things don’t always need to be simple.

Arcana: The Tower

Tower.pngShown also Inverted as it is part of the symbolism of the Arcana.

The 3rd card of the House of The Works of Men (aka Mortals); The Tower. The tower like many cards in the House can be quite literal. The world is full of towers.  The walls and spires built to defend the insecure.

The tower stands between the night and the day, but when one looks closer dark clouds plague the bright dawn, and tranquility may be found in the night.  Wars are brought most often upon the day, though schemes may lurk in the dark.  In some older versions the moonward figure is a man wearing a mask, while the sunward figure is a soldier with a pike.

The tower is ultimately also iconic of home, city life, and royalty.  All of the structures of society.  The masked and helmeted figures of old tradition, and White and Red Sisters shown above, also implying masks, roles, and expectations.

Inverted the Tower can represent the loss of home, but also the rejection of the rigid structures of society. As with several other cards depicting a bisected sky the Inversion of the Tower can represent quite literally that which is upended, or backwards, or the overturning of things, as the sun sets, and moon rises.

On the differing iconography.  As noted above the Red and White women pictured are a change in the traditional imagery that popularized around 200 E.R. In the wake of the works Sylvia Grey.  Much has been written on the mater of ‘The Masks of Women and Men,’ in allusion to this change.  Sylvia Grey particularly expounded upon the topic in one of her lesser known works, a treaties on the Arcana.  The work focused heavily on the cultural symbolism, and history, and less on the actual art of divination.  Though heavily explored the idea of perspectives in interpretation.  It was thus that imagery from her writings found its way into many decks after her time.

Clearly this card was crafted some time after 200 E.R. The symbolism here of what is most likely a Red Sister in the night side, and a White Sister in the day.  This betrays an eye to post Sylvian cultural influences. It is curious to see this symbolism and variation in the covering of the more common exposed chest of the moonward figure. Such juxtaposition of Lycian iconography and Clarion modesty places a likely origin of the card from Western Palantine, most likely after 250 E.R. Even in decks with such tamed aesthetics, such modesty is rarely extended to the Empress card, even in devoutly Clarion lands. More on this another time.


 

Commentary: Yeah, this is for pragmatic reasons a censored version of the card.  Yet it provides some nice opportunity to catalogue lore of the Clarion Lycian dichotomy.  Also an apt case of the contrary point of discomfort over a literal spattering of a few pixels.  The implication of a few contours and shapes, rendering an image questionable.

I went a rather different way with my Tower relative to the interpretations of the tarot version.  I just like this better.  I did however keep an allusion to storm clouds in the distance, I think that fit well with my lore interpretations.  Also perhaps a trace of the Babel like fall of the tower.  The arrogance of mortals to defy the natural order.  Yet as the question will be raised.  What is of nature?

Also yes, this was intentionally designed to be evocative of the twins as pictured on the cover of Book II, while very clearly not being them.  Too much literalism is destructive to symbolism.  If there is a rhyme in the whims of prognosticating seers, who can say.