Chapter III:5

A line which 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.


There was still melting snow in the high pass, miles above Brokhal. Not an expected stop, and yet the wagon rolled to a halt. Kiannae sat up, and pulled back the curtains on a side window. Cries echoed down the pass, and as she strained to hear the repetitions grew closer. “Broken axle,” the driver called from the front, and the calls continued down the line.

“Three miles.” Katrisha sighed.

Continue reading “Chapter III:5”


Commentary III:4

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Oh, Movement!

I worry a little bit that it took this long to get underway.  We are also definitely seeing a more dramatic shift in the pace of chapters.  Book I was always very much an overview of growing up, a primer into the world.  Book II started the slow down, lingering in years for chapters at a time.  That’s gonna be a big thing going forward.  It will still be 655 when we reach Mordove…well, unless something unexpected goes wildly off course.  I put nothing past this world to surprise me with.

As long established Caravans are the way to travel, but not if you want to get anywhere quickly.  Caravan’s are heavy, and trading is their business more than travel.  Long stretches of dull repetition, mixed with occasional tense encounters, or outright raids.  Not every bandit is so crass as to start with a raid either.  Some setup roadblocks, and deport themselves as toll collectors.  Such negotiations may go many ways.

The Book…continues to linger.  I feel like this ancient tome has almost always been here, and yet it has not yet revealed how it will be important.  I have ideas, but it may have ideas of its own.  The poem written on that paper is really old in the development of the story.  Nearly as old as the Storm itself.  It forged the book around it into being, just as the twins have shaped their world.

The game of chess.

The joke has long been that in any world there are humans, there is eventually chess.  Still, with no bishops in the world, I do find myself in a bit of a conundrum.  The rules of the game are largely consistent with those we know, the origins different, the pieces vary.  Here we have knights, and mages.  Some boards have dragons, and ships.  Some other combinations there of.

The piece in question was originally the maji, or teacher, or even in some histories the sly-thought.  The knight in fact was originally the knot, the sense of which is held to be tangled.  To round things out in the original: The Assertion (pun, pawn), the Premise (primus, king), The Theory (con, queen), and Rook (standing stone, in the sense of a point of reference.)  This was the game of checked thought.  A conversation as much as a contest.  In tradition it was considered good form to debate or discuss as one played.

The words got a bit tangled as the game moved through the world.  The Knot became the Knight, or more specifically neght in the original vale speak.  These were horse owners, and chief among the warrior cast that served the rigid matriarchy of the vales.  Most often the husband, or sometimes just mate of a prominent woman.  It was reasoned such a soldier could jump the lines.

Osyrae however internally took to myth (pre-imperial,) and saw the hooked shape of the piece as the head of a dragon.  Creatures then only of story, and prophecy.  Osyrae also through further militarization saw the maji as the tacking of ships against the wind.  The modern Pawn is owed to Palentia, meaning a young paladin not yet fully honored, but fit for service.

It is often misinterpreted that vale word cwen (Queen) merely meant lady.  Which while factually not inaccurate, obscures that cwens were the ruling class of the vale.  Such a high lady, was a shaman, a wise elder, a matriarch.  It is such that the declaration of Queen of Every Vale, was not unlike saying Queen of Queens.  Very grand for such an over all tiny nation in the scope of the world.

Navi herself declared the con the cwen, seeing it as the most powerful piece, the primus, merely what she need defend.  By some legends she did so playing against a northern maji who would become her king consort.  Curiously the original con, in the sense of confidence, is indeed related to the modern word confidence, here specifically a confident reasoning.  A theory, which has proven sound, and capable.

The Rook has been discussed before elsewhere.  It has survived through chance.

The duel.

Kiannae is very much channeling me here when she says, “I’ve always wondered.”  I’d toyed over the years with the notion.  There wasn’t really a good reason for it to happen, other than a context like this.  I’d mostly never intended to go here, and yet it seemed the scene itself wanted to happen the way things were going.  So I stopped fighting, and let them.

I wasn’t completely sure where I was going with this scene as I stepped into it.  I think I intended to go a bit epic, at least as a first pass, but the idea that this was a really bad idea just kept nagging at me.  I think the reasons why are far too well established by now.  I like some interpretations this opens.  So I have a quick escalation cut short as things go out of hand.

I like some things that open here.  I mean for my readers to be able to speculate if they want, though the clues can be a maze.  Also, not knowing what you all are speculating, who am I to confirm or deny.

Commentary I:17

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Trouble in Pairs

I’m trying to remember everything that swirled around to this point.  The opening here used to be part of the previous chapter, and again in another year I’m fairly sure.  Again Katrisha and Kiannae’s rivalry was meant to be established a bit sooner.  I’m still happy with the overall story I’ve told but I do worry about the timing.

That said it is probably stronger with some things coming if this is more around these pre-teen new teen years.  This escalation was originally supposed to lead to, well, no spoilers, but there were different ways to set up the second book in mind before I embraced the original inspiration.

The arc here is intended to show an escalation of rash decisions.  Effects of something farther reaching in the shadows.  There were some moves I am happier about, age ranges that made things play nicer.  The happy accident got a front row seat for future plans, and things here echo nicely into the future.

Yes, Catherine is not some common Lady, but should have been the Crown Princess, destined to be Queen.  Avrale is one of the few lands which does not have an enshrined preference for the gender of the heir.  Her first ruler was after all the origin of the word Queen (Cwen).  Yet modern politics here put things down another path.

Funny that today I write more commentary about staves.  Back to back with some future commentary from Book III.  The stave fighting was just something I wanted to happen, and discipline aspect gives a nice excuse why.  I have a deep attachment to the style of stave fighting.  A weapon more about control than offense, the proverbial rod.  More capable of punishing the interloper, than needing to kill.  More capable than a sword of providing defense.  More reach, more angles of attack.

I did want this earlier though.  To have some more action earlier.  If I ever get some form of conversion to a visual medium this timing might get a rewrite.  I’m very attached to the story, the scenes, but there are so many things that could exist in other orders and tell a very similar story.  Different pacing, and organizations that work better in different mediums.

The title of this commentary may be too much of a deep cut.  A Tale of Two X seems to becoming a running gag for me, but A Tale of Two Staves is already taken.  A Tale of Twins Torn, A Road in Twain…  Never mind, old titles, moving on.

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.

Chapter III:4

Oh watch your words wisely,
oh do stay your offered hand,
don’t shake till it’s quite settled,
in bargains there are no friends,

watch the eyes they tell tales,
watch the lips they always lie,
those clever like to think they are,
restrained smirks seeming shy.

oh some deals you cannot lose,
oh often this is the earnest sale,
don’t give up the upper hand,
you could get more, do not fail.

– The Haggle, Alexander Durandal, circa 390 E.R.


Coria 12th, 655 E.R.

In the Grey Lamb tavern, on the eastern end of the village of Brokhal. No eyes were upon a woman with deep red hair, and striking bronze skin. She resided by herself at a small table, in a quiet corner. Her only company a few scattered tankards of ale. It was a busy night, and every table was full, save hers. Surely this striking Osyraen woman, sitting alone, should have drawn some attention. If only for a place to sit, if not suspicion. Yet the patrons seemed oblivious to her presence.

Continue reading “Chapter III:4”

A Little Puzzle


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.

Commentary III:3


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A Rolling Stone Travels Eventually

I was a little worried going into editing Chapter 3.  A lot of new ideas butting up against what was already an unreasonably long chapter.  Yet as I started piecing things together I found I could fit all I wanted to in under the title in a reasonably sized chapter instead, and maintain my lead content.  I was tempted to bring something important in here, but I think it will begin the next instead of end this one here.  Which I think closes strong enough.  Better to save the next scene as an opening.

One thing about writing as I have to this point, where I write ahead, come back, revise, is it has let me really capture the nature of the tale I’m telling.  Little details like Kiannae’s enchanted calite stone, having already introduced Kat to the gem I introduced in this chapter long ago.  I may have some thoughts about that going forward now that I think of it.  Something I’d been tempted to do, but now have a reason.

The chance to re-introduce the expression, “An Ashton always returns,” which had been introduced in the vision of her father’s oath.  Something that had happened before she was born.  A circle slowly closing on a plot that I had long daydreamed.  Which gave reason to whimsy.  There is the sum of so many things that grew deeper as I iterated back over past events in this chapter.  Weathered stones etched by the elements of refinement.

What let me keep things reasonable was changing this from “Parting Ways” to the more poetic allusion.  The siblings do not begin their journey yet, but find another mission to undertake along the way.  A small detour.  Back to where it all began.  A nice symmetry that early in book three we return to the roots of the Ashton’s tale.

I seriously toyed with more explicitly calling out the emotion behind Kat’s hugging Catherine.  That she realized part of why she had always disliked her, was that she wanted so much for her to liker her, and she never seemed to.  Life is stupid like that sometimes.  We are easily angry at people who want us to be their vision of better, because it is asking us not to be ourselves.  It isn’t always malice.

Wren and Celia.  There are a lot of things going on here, and I debate how much I should go into it.  Let me own that things have changed, reasons, shifted.  Making Kit into Wren flipped things around.  Yet it all played out more or less the same.  Except for with Celia.

Originally she had just not been ready, which was all the sadder, and harsher.  There was a deeper ambiguity though with Wren.  He, was a he.  It was a problem.  He was a he, with a mixed up soul blended with a young woman, his mother.  His first choice, his first instinct of who to love, didn’t want him cause he was a boy.  He didn’t understand that at the moment, but in time, he got the message.

She fell in love with his sister, and yeah, that’s complicated.  Yet, he was the one that made her unsure.  The only one.  Because he was just Wren, to her.  He wasn’t the complicated one in her eyes, she was.  So yes, this scene was once a little different too.  Both parts.  Like so many other things, stronger for the hard choice I made those years ago.  How many things have turned around since then.

I’m toying around with the idea of publishing a partially finished exploration of, well, a lot of things.  Dancing around sensitive subjects much as I have, I hesitate, because even though it tends to stay little less tame than I already have, it is unavoidably adult in the context it provides.  The frankness of the situations.  Still, there is a lot of editing yet, and some decisions to be made internally.  Maybe half way through Book III, by then I might have them sorted out as some extras.

An enviable position, is not always enviable.  I think that’s the take away I’ll leave you with.  The dream, not always what it’s cracked up to be.  I feel good how some things worked out.  I’ve played a lot with polyamory in these pages, and it’s been a mixed bag.  I think that’s fair, though I feel bad I’ve shown so little of it working out.  There is a backdrop here of Lycian culture in which it is quite normal, it often does, and I have shown none of it.

Let me also quibble a bit about Sasha.  I adore her, more than I should, and I put myself through some hell involving her.  Till I realized I was quibbling over something that had a better choice.  I’ll let anyone speculate on the precise math.  There are lots of dates to work with. Sasha is in fact nearly but not quite old enough to be Wren’s rather young mother…who’s soul he possesses.  Yeah.  Complicated.

On the one side it worked, it added interest to what was once a far more amorphous plot point.  It also helped tie things together after Kit became Wren.  Originally it was more generic, Audrey wanting to explore, Kit following along, and finding she could not see a man that way, without her mother’s memories intruding.  There’s still a nod to that here, but it’s a whole other issue.  A hammering home of Wren being conflicted with the two women he was most drawn to, both, wanting a woman.

Broaching the Subject…

Ok, side note first.  Fairly sure Mercu told most of the dad jokes.  More mom jokes around my house, usually.  My father would orate enunciate his humorous stories of the past, which might contain lines such as ‘belay the air to the horn.’  Yes, dad jokes, Mercu told a lot of those too.  Any way…

Visually, the broach is one of the oldest elements kicking around the world.  The initial image of Kat was almost fully formed in my head somewhere between 1999 and 2001.  The silver hair, green eyes, freckles, ‘pale’ complexion.  I know she is a bit short, and her twin a bit tall.  That their practices of magic changed them.  Pale though, relative to what though I guess is an open question.  The flipping of the script, or global centrism as it were, I think occurred to me maybe 2007.

2005 (Forgive the old art.)

I’m not sure on the year on this one.  Export date of 2005, but this is a later save without the background for animation (wasn’t worth tracking down, trust me.)  There is only one older image of her, which is entertainingly odd.  I totally planned to show it, but didn’t feel like digging it out of cold storage on some random drive.  It also is before the broach, or, at least it’s gem.

I always felt it was special somehow, but it was really there to accentuate her eyes.  As you can see I hadn’t settled into her black and silver motif fully.  All the jewelry is supposed to be gold here, but the silver hair, the silver trim…  In the book the initial one is described as brass, for practical reasons.  If it was set in silver it would have cost more, Mercu only offered them so much.  There is some symmetry I guess in replacing it with a silver one as we move into Book III, and she truly begins to take on the mantel, as her sister moves to take it.  Her silver and black settled.

I’m not really sure whether I ever made mention of the moon necklace in the book.  I think I did, somewhere.  I’m actually feeling more certain this was 2005.  Looking at that hair it was clearly inspired by my gnome mage’s hairstyle.  At the time named Kirae.  Kat was taken.  K’at invalid in the system.  Katrisha I settled on round about the time this was made.

20017 (Much closer)

Kat2017_correction.pngHere we see an all silver motif, but it is slightly wrong due to timing.  The broach, here, again used as a cloak clasp, is silver when it should be brass.  I’ve always imagined it was designed to do both.  The hair is black because this was meant to be Kat near the end of Book I, in experiments with the cover.  Her skin tone has waffled a bit over the years, in part because it is hard to nail the look I’m going for.  Sylvans are a somewhat pale, vaguely asian forest people.  They do however darken up a bit with enough sun.  Her mother was just the pale side of average for the local wide range of olive complexions.  Further she was effected by that illness that changed her.  So I waffle.  Yes, long gap there between versions.  I was doing other art, and not trying to revisit Kat because I didn’t feel I cold make it much better at the time.

I really like the softness of this version.  And this is by far my most successful version of her, it captures that spirit I always imagined.  Resting cheeky face, that tiniest smirk, eyes picking you apart.  Looking up at you cause most people are just a bit taller.  That feeling this little woman will knock you on your ass if you give her a reason, but she’d rather not.  Still, you aren’t always sure she wouldn’t rather you gave her a good reason.

I kind of wonder if there is a natural, and perhaps unwise cockiness in knowing your fate is to die young, beautiful, and far too spectacularly to worry much about common adversaries.  I don’t think this is conscious in the least.  Save in little ways.  Her defiance of Oradin, she had faced a dragon and lived in no more.  He was nothing, and she wished to show him this.  Not that she has any illusions of invulnerability.  She can be hurt, and she can lose those around her, and no prophecy is absolute.  She believes that far too much to be consumed with undue confidence.  She has to, because she plans to defy it.

It’s fascinating to try try and imagine the difference between the two’s faces.  Same bones, but one has smiled more, the other more serious, and reserved.  The tone of the muscles in their cheeks, their expressions, they look so similar, but one wouldn’t mistake them for identical easily.