Commentary VI:1

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Hard to Swallow

This was the first title for the chapter, with spicy food, and strange concerns afoot. Had it still been Book III, and I had not split it as the new numbering suggests, that might have flown. I felt like something a little more serious, and less comical was apt for a first chapter of a book.

The epigraph and ending wound up lending the title. It’s tempting to say some things about this epigraph but I think I’ll sit on them, other than to say I’ve put way more thought into a passing mention of fiction within a fictional world than is at all sensible, and conclude the author of the referenced book was named “S.C. Lowes.” (Sarah Carol) Cause I’m prone to being too cute by half.

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Chapter VI:1

Tick tock, tick tock,
a mouse ran up the clock,
tick tock, tick tock,
wheels did grind and knock,
tick tock, tick tock,
a clock struck none,
a mouse’s job, was done,
tick tock, click clock,

– The Mouse, the Witch, and the Window, 421 E.R.

The Turning Wheel

The world could easily forget the pitiable end of a mad god. It had larger, flashier concerns, after all. It would take years to enter wider circulation, as even a footnote. One tied to more visible, later events, recording the start of a war.

However it weighed upon the Ashtons, and companions, they had their own uneasy futures. None amongst them truly knew what to make of Estae’s willful sacrifice. Though it proved a strong incentive, to linger no longer than necessary. They had never expected to be welcomed, and what welcome they had received, was no more comforting.

The big things, are oft a distraction from the little, that tell us truths. The reverse can be true as well. What was easily missed in rural lands, from the high towers of the heart of the world, thrummed like a heartbeat. A rhythm, long then short, long then short, and again, till a falter, that warned not all was right.

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Commentary III:70

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Sometimes A Metaphor is More

I have my doubts in playing out a game and full game and a half of chess in a novel, but it felt right. In my first draft I winged it, and imagined it all inconsistent, and dreamy, but then for giggles I set up a board, and tried to make the moves I described. Amazingly it almost made sense with only maybe three or four modifications till the half way point, but then it started to go in new directions, but I still made most of the existing dialogue work.

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Chapter III:70

Press the Argument,
respond with Questions,
retreat the Assertion,
the Premise beckons,

protect the Theory,
advance the line,
don’t take too long,
you’ll run out of time.

– The Black Book, circa unknown

The Gambits of Gods

Kiannae found herself sitting at a chess board. Across from whom exactly, she wasn’t so sure, nor when. Where was more obvious, a west tower chamber, high on Broken Hill. Mercu was strumming an old lute in a window seat.

Everything else was still, the board fresh. She looked up at the figure across from her. Taloe, she settled on, and could almost remember where, and when she should be.

“Are you alright?” Kiannae asked. She was worried, though why was slippery. He’d had trouble she remembered, ever since the Blight. That wasn’t right, but it was true. He gestured to the board.

«This is not now.» Echoed in her head.

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Chapter III:69

All things have mirrors and shadows,
for every darkness there is a light,
hold high the lamp if you please,
for even the Sun, casts the night,

fear not what in darkness hides,
the frightened is the lesser of foes,
beware the thing proud before you,
without fear, its contempt doth show.

– The Foe Ahead, 83 E.R.

The Shadow of the Sun

A grizzled, old High Cleric looked across those gathered at the edge of the Great Balcony. His eyes lingered on a woman who stared into the bright gold of one of the most holy of relics. For a man of such gift, his appearance spoke of great age. He didn’t look happy, but it was hard to imagine that weathered face to ever look happy.

He’d been silent through most of the day. Watched, and listed as the tallest of their guests negotiated for what the Avatar’s command was worth. He had begun to wonder himself, as the others came and went, growing frustrated. Doubt weighted on the lines of his face as their seeming leader walked back to her company. The grimace deepened. With all the determination an old man is due, questioning things he thought long settled, he moved to catch up.

“The others,” the man said in a hoarse voice to those gathered. “Are not brave enough to do what sense would ask, such as there is sense left in the world. Perhaps this is why I was chosen to give the order, to bring forth the old shield from the vault. So it seems, the rest falls to me as well.”

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Commentary II:68

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Only Two War and Peaces Later

I first imagined the Avatar’s place in the world seven or eight (forever!) years ago, as I was still in the earliest drafts of Book I, and Seasons. I mostly had concluded he existed when I began outlining the Dragon War, thinking about the Clarions. Understanding him has taken time however, a great deal of time.

I skipped the new commentary pattern again, this time because I was excited to schedule a post rather that wrap it up Sunday. Sunday, wasn’t anything particularly intentional about that, just the second day of the weekend to give me dedicated time to do editing and finish scenes.

This weeks epigraph makes me want to talk about it a bit.

I like to harken back to the familiar at times, to strike a chord we know, and go another way. Some times a bit more plainly than others.

There is something pleasantly silly to conflate the “romantic” (lustful) love of a young boy for a fair maiden, with the religious experience of of High Cleric or pious poet of old. What? It is a passionate love, reverence, and for the Clarions is a passionate reverence that shies away from such thoughts. It is an envious desire, to be like him. So it’s fun to step away from the line of the jealous moon, oh mirror of the sun, and into other symbolism as apt to the world.

With irony there see the Avatar upon a balcony that faces the rising sun, and so he rises in the west. Something backwards, to mirror that he rises in the west to face the sun. Really I start to wonder if the poet mocks, or reveres. I’m amused with that possible interpretation.

Mages and their towers, where does it come from? The perspective of being high above? The ivory tower of separation from the world? The idea of the tower of Babylon, to rival the gods, and their place in the heavens? The irony of an analogy, becoming literal, to become another analogy? The idea of ascent, and the Aether above, and the Nether below. So they want to rise above? This tower was built long ago, before the Avatar, by a king who wanted to be seen as the son of a god, who mythology conflated with the sun, and the Morningstar.

To read on that Romeo likened Juliet also to an angel (of course) because trite has to start somewhere! The strange cultural conflation of divine beauty with that which gives us attraction. Further the very Morningstar symbolism, and the rivaling. (Didn’t expect that to come around so nicely as I dug deeper in the thought process.) Actually with some irony I think back to a biblical instance of attraction to angels, rather in spite about how the angel might feel about it, as opposed to the ones who came of their own intent, looking. Neither one ended well.

The Avatar himself a frightful juxtaposition of mortality and immortality. Honestly as I think about it, the Avatar is more Lich than anything. He’s practically a floating corpse, except that he’s very much alive… by some definition… most definitions?

Imagine if one combined the powers of a paladin and anti-paladin. Like a mater anti-mater explosion became alive. He consumed the energy of an entire slain city, and battlefield of fallen, to stand against the power of the very dragon that had just leveled that city. Born against the backdrop of the greatest war crime the world had ever seen. To rival any we have ever known in our world, like a nuke in New York. All at once he was vengeance, justice, and the proof of ascension. Whatever his bright light really meant, or was made of.

An eldritch horror made mostly of light, and a skeletal form within who’s apparent frailty belies unflinching health. Beautiful and nightmarish. Divested of most physical needs, or the parts of reproduction, for what does the immortal need with reproduction? He simply is.

From a distance do you see a star is a broiling furnace, full of dark spots, and bursting with great juts of fire? While we read Northstar, it sounds so very little different than Morningstar. Arguably to challenge the night, is to challenge the sun, to rival to burn so bright, but he would truly not be but a spec from any great distance. So yes, I wonder again, if it was not written at all in jest, how many times it might have been read so. Possibly to a very angry audience, if too many Clarions were present.

Like saying something bad against any particular holy figure, but he rose in 3 seconds, not 3 days, of wind, and fire, and arcane symbols, to scatter greater dragons like spooked cats before him. A spectacle for any few survivors within miles to see, and burned an image into the minds of even many who saw nothing, for they were hiding.

I occasionally examine my epigraphs from the perspective of “historians,” examining the context of uncertain remote periods of history. What’s been misinterpreted and how, and then, further reconsider, do I mean that to be true, is the prevailing wisdom wrong?

It has other benefits, but largely they all arise in allowing true heart felt faithful beliefs, as basis for disagreement. If you are going to have religious differences or strife in your world. Even political, and philosophical. Because we fight wars over philosophical differences, or at least excuses.

He’s like the Buddha and Christ had a baby, and it turned out to be Vishnu had more in common with a grey, and an angel. Reason and Faith only war over evidence, and when one can see that evidence from miles away, there are a lot of reasonable people, who believe. So who knows about some poet centuries ago, he might have been doing both… Being a poet, most likely.

At first I just dumped us under the great dome, and onto the balcony, and started cleaning up an encounter that I wrote like a year ago, much of which survived, but a lot of little things changed.

One was adding this introduction of Kat trying to figure something out, which has mixed impacts. I like how it played out, and that she sort of gets it right, counting down to seeing the end, not arriving.

One I guess emerged by accident, “seeing the world as they did.” What Liora glimpses here for the first time looking through a pair of these spectacles, and seeing the world in clear and unfamiliar detail. Katrisha who doesn’t just take in the human wonder of the place, but examines the history, the details, she sees stories under the grand spectacle, and perhaps how the two are one. As when Kiannae entered Mordove she /felt/ it, but I chose Kat’s perspective here.

I feel like I was still somewhere between Helm and Corinthia when I first envisioned this version of the scene (though much longer ago I knew it would happen,) and started thinking about what the Avatar was really like, and in retrospect I now consider perhaps why Rennae was so hesitant to speak of her encounter.

Lovecraft uses dark slimy imagery often to describe our fear of the unknown hiding in dark places, but what of the light unknowable? The Avatar is something alien, even though it is born of the world. They have transcended. I considered using it in this context, indeed to heighten the otherness, but that’s a can of worms, and if anything the linguistic ambiguity of the singular they grows all the better with this creature.

I feel that the frightening aspects of divine holy iconography are under explored. It’s apt to remember in the Hebrew mythology of God, to look upon his face was death. Not a judgement as I’ve ever read it, but that mortals are simply too frail to survive perceiving the divine laid bare. That’s eldritch horror no mater how bathed in light. Madness and death to see it. The sun burns us, and gives us cancers, the air we breath, the sources of our power poison us. Even the clean and antiseptic has frightening quality, because it is dead, and often is born in war against the living (disease) which is decay.

The likening to a peacocks feathers really was not meant to harken back to anything, the two are unrelated (this is older I think, but I’m not sure.) Rather it arose out imagining the child of a tentacle and a feather, and wanting to add an apt creepy factor. The eyes of peacock-feather-luminous-spider-leg-tendrils, that blink, and look about. Because they are hands, legs, and eyes, not just feathers and wings. They touch to see, and are touched by light to perceive. So the imagery is perhaps figurative, or interpretive. Perhaps madness, or perhaps it is a reflection of the Avatar’s own perception of their power feeding back through some shred of mortal ideation. All of the above?

Perhaps there is an aptness to all this likening to the living things of the world. If the Avatar is manifest out of the world-spell, where the dire creatures inherit their traits… well it would make sense. More of a discovery than perhaps a conscious thought as I was writing all this. Even a dandy lion seed… and there are ways certain spiders spread on the breeze.

Older than this writing of the scene was the thought Etore would bail at the gate, and show up in the shadows, forced out by the light of something far above her, and so she entered in this writing. In that sense, the intent of this scene is about as old as last weeks because it was one thought process. Liora steps in to try and help, (vouch for them) gets taken into custody as well (she was the missing piece,) Etore bails, and shows up in the meeting with the Avatar, only to be humbled, and her past revealed.

Well, we knew her past by now, but here I think we finally settle it. No more questions, the word as it were, of the Avatar himself. Council law be damned, he’s just recognized her, and called her a Queen. One more thing in the epigraph was the closing. The Avatar ended the war, he didn’t win it alone, but his ascension changed everything, and turned the tide, as much as the betrayal of Vhael’s brother Mar’etten.

Mar saw what his brother had done, and realized it was all madness, and that this tiny human had defied him, ascended, and turned them back. So set in motion the dominos tumbling, one after another. He found a higher loyalty, and so, kept his suffix name. Etten, loyal. By the by this word inscribed on the crossbar of Osyraen guard swords, such as Etore’s old trusty main hand, and related to the root of the name she was given instead of Eudora. This was a hidden sign of the loyalty by the nursemaid who fled with her.

The Avatar turns from one touched by such powers, to another’s child, who contains her essence. He can sense the echo of their origin, the bond of their very existence to one another. Wren is not impressed.

The shadows of what cast each were a long imagined thing for the Avatar’s very presence. I think it’s mentioned some time back in Book I or II, that truths or something are cast in the shadows of his light. I forget where I said it though, only mostly sure I did. Might have been another epigraph?

Again I once imagined a little less revealed at this point, so we got a different set of hints of what happens as he shakes free. Though I put a finer point on the bloodied lip than I first had, and emphasized the shift of the shy little healer, ready for battle.

I also once had not intended for us to yet have such a clear picture of the questions between Katrisha and Kiannae’s identities, and I think had intended to drop a clue here. Instead we get more of the clear picture of Katrisha breaking free of it all, her only shadows are herself.

So, the Avatar obliges to consider the plan hidden in the staff, and approves. It seems. There is a temptation to linger more in this, but he is an alien thing that read them all like books. A bit like Zale reading the surface nature of Nanamni, but it’s a quite different thing something otherworldly peering into the very truth of ones existence, than a lover just reading the surface.

There Avatar is not one being, but I did intentionally leave some cracks and intentional singular self nouns, while others could be mistaken for the royal we, but are more we, as many voices one hears speaking. The tension between Katrisha and him is curious. I don’t think it’s a spoiler because truly I am speculating on my own deeper thoughts here un-codified, he is near the bounds of selflessness without being inert, and she is the bounds of self, without being selfish. Anathema, but ultimately, not enemy.

As I edited it I came to the conclusion of some past ambiguity of the Avatar’s vote in the great schism that has been implied. He seems a good abstaining party, no vote cast, he chooses to side with the one his once opponent chose, in the face of worse.

A true enemy is coming, and the Avatar is afraid.

Another small detail that occurred by chance was to have him touch Liora. We don’t see the shadow she cast, for she is kneeling. We don’t need to see her mother, for we’ve known. What we need, is to see his kind treatment of her, and the most human of his interaction with the others.

This middle section was added when I decided the chapter as I put it out needed to stand alone, was a bit short, and wanted to provide some transition to the evening conversation. One of the first things that happened without any intent was Katrisha wanting to read the riot act on Etore.

I debate if this was entirely in character for Etore, but perhaps, as implied farther along, she knew in her gut there was something she did not like about the creature. She also does have a habit of drawing her short sword simply to make a point, or other weapons at times. There is a certain speaking with a threat aspect that is innate to who she has grown to be. It’s always worked before. I think though, she saw him as a beast, a monster, and he looked right at her without even the slightest hesitation. It felt like an attack, and perhaps it was, if only a warning shot. Rather than standing down, she escalated, and so, she got humbled.

Kiannae sees no point quibbling over the past, but is rather un-forceful in her attempt to move the conversation on. There are far more concerning things. The Avatar has just admitted mortality, and declared an unspecified enemy is coming. He’s given his command that they could use to try and fix the problems stirring in the east, but, it wouldn’t work. His command is about as long lived as him. Like any king, someone is going to come after. So all they are left with is momentary favor. Whatever that’s worth.

Kiannae, past any questioning of how she fits into everything, goes off to spend hours arguing. In part to give me the excuse to stay on the balcony through the day, where I want to have the following conversation.

More than half of this weeks chapter was written way back when I’d still imagined Etore’s secret being at least partly still in the bag, and her watching this scene, and finally admitting what should “have been your first clues.” That line however was older, and was always meant to be more about Wren and her… it’s all evolved. Etore has nothing to do in this scene, and we get to focus on Liora and Katrisha.

I really don’t know if anyone will remember the references. The more plain one I changed up the words Katrisha said to Celia at the end of Book II, just a little to be more natural. I think she told Kiannae in Corinthia when she became convinced she was a spell, but didn’t want to check so I implied she’d told very few. She’s never had the vision so many have seen.

The fracturing of time was also new from the original writing of the scene, but slips naturally into the already established connection to Osyrae trying to spur war with the Sylvans to weaken the world for them to take it. To drive the inevitable decay some see so long as the meek flounder in their fumbling self governance.

I am a little suspect of having Liora delude herself here, but I think it plays well that she is still seeing herself as an other, not part of them, whatever lectures she’s been given. She is Clarion, they are not, and seem all to have no interest in following her ideals… or at least certain deal breakers.

All at once her ideals are flawed, her faith has a chink in it, because she knows something is wrong that has consumed that faith, and she can’t escape it. Even as those she would call Brother clap her on the back, and congratulate her for the recognition they saw the Avatar give, her… but she is filled with doubt. Who and what her mother was, that she stands against what so many she consider faithful seem to believe.

She fumbles in this fracture in her faith, and Katrisha calls her on it, and she over reaches, and Katrisha calls her on it. They can be more, and perhaps they should, but who are they to choose for another what their path should be?

Then at last when Liora explains what she is asking, she gets called once more on the obvious she’s ignored. The Avatar’s order covers her, she has been placed amongst them.

Can the vast majority be wrong? Absolutely. Can the perceived majority be wrong? All the more. Instead of Etore intruding, or conversation about her mother, we go another way, and orders come to fruition as a man sees the point he might step into the conversation, given what he holds.

I’m not sure how old the idea of the shield of the Avatar is. A thing forged in the fire of a dragon, and the defiance of a demi-god born on the battlefield. One who she ignored the deeper meaning of, being told his path is hers. As we have been reminded, but the Clarions so like to forget. He rebelled by standing with the Empire, his defiance was to forge his own path, not bow to the will of the clerics, or lords of his land. To strike a higher loyalty than the trappings of his faith.

Certainly her being handed the shield here occurred last week, but I’d long intended it in the abstract, and it caps off well for the week, on a slightly short but dramatic if not “action filled” chapter. I actually made the Avatar’s touch to her chin be more than a finger, to accentuate what Katrisha calls out here. He only touched her. So how can she be the impurity she fears?

To defend the closing lines, which I just liked, but have some doubts about, let me speak back to the iconography of the fool reversed. Who sees the world as it is, upside down, and their folly is as sensible as anything else. Liora I think however, means more “foolish idealism,” a fool to keep trying to be her friend, or maybe a lot of other things. I’m fairly sure the words fell out her mouth as the kindest snideness she could offer, for all the woman had said kindly to her, and were not though about deeply. Such might be a dangerous thing for the touched…

Chapter III:68

What light ‘pon yon proud tower breaks,
it is the west, and a Sun doth yet so rise,
arise oh Sun, and give rest to weary Laeune,
let her cold watch end, at midnight’s gloom,
not but humble mirror, to the source of light,
oh ageless one, of glory so bright,

call not to the faithful,
oh wise warrior who stood,
call out to the darkness,
who’s time we’ve endured,

challenge the night, with your brave light,
slay the beast of dark scales, without fight,
for no dragon could end, that great war,
but you did turn the tide, oh bright Northstar,
and armies, great armies, march, no more.

– The Sun Yet Rises, 512 E.R.

The Avatar

“What are you doing?” Liora demanded under her breath. She gave Katrisha a sidelong glance, and to the guards behind them. They seemed unconcerned, and she turned her eyes back to the stairs. They had already been climbing for twenty minutes.

Katrisha poked the spell above her palm, her spectacles balanced on her nose. “Counting,” she said absently.

“You need a spell to do that?” Liora chided.

Katrisha gave her a befuddled look. She’d been distracted. “No, I am trying to see if I can determine how many steps we’ve already taken. Something isn’t right about this place. At first, I planned to just measure our height above sea level, but now I’m bothered. I can tell the value from that is wrong, so I’m counting… or trying to back count the stairs in my measurements. Then I can multiply by their height. This would be much easier if I had my staff,” she muttered.

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