Commentary III:57

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Queens & Shadows

Writing commentary on mobile, on vacation, apologies if some things are more sloppy.

Etore has mixed experience dealing with high level royalty. What she does have its experience dealing with those she might be prepared to call peers. The Queen obliges her manners more than she gets it right, but over all there is a hard to place semblance of sense to the tone of the interaction.

The Queen has, as she passes over, opted to recognize Etore, and wager she may be a better person to have on the throne than her uncle. This far from conventionaly puts them in any comperable social footing. It’s hard to place what relative social strata they are occupying. A princess, heir apparent denied her throne, implying her intent to take it, and all that implies. The world hasn’t had a potential flash point figure like her in centuries. The Council sealed claims for good reason.

The Queen on the other side is a seasoned veteran of rule, and so reads Etore’s type, and so long as it is a private meeting, meets her on her terms. This manner in public would go over less well, and Etore is not daft, and knows this.

The two are testing each other throughout.

The Queen does become the voice of my own frustration with conventional and chosen poetic license. Shadow has become a very overloaded term. People, places, and powers, and now a thing pulling Selene’s strings. This was indeed one of the “puppets” of recent title, but did not find a place, so Etore becomes the vehicle.

Etore has also started playing the ‘sane woman in a mad world” role rather deftly. “I can work with chaos,’ can you? It’s truthfully a humble brag she’s grown fond of, that she can handle the company she keeps. Particularly since she is not always so sure she can, and tipps her hand a bit to that in the closing.

I had originally imagined some debate, or other shenanigans around deciding who would confirm Etore’s observations. As thing worked out Kat has the debate with herself, and does it.

I can’t attest exactly when the shadow dragon came to be in my imaginings. Yet I recall setting some precedent for what it might represent. A glimpse back in Mordove of vast intricate structures in aura.

This is by far the most seemingly benign creepy spirit thing we have yet met. Full of riddles, and perhaps implied schemes, it’s almost ‘old master’ manner is I think a bit disarming in spite of appeances. Of course even the assurances of behavior may be thin.

As Etore points out, it’s getting handsy again. I think perhaps questioning the Queen’s judgement in being left alone would have been wise, but that she seemed in control enough to step back, may have given some possibly misguided sense of confidence. As also the general understanding, beyond what Selene has become, there is scarce evidence you can simply control someone. Only manipulate.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about prosaic riddles in “true speach” (I loosely call it.) On a level it’s kind of fun that even such pure utterances of understanding become “questions” in the voice of this creature.

It’s also amusing and disturbing to think of a ‘dragon playing with little dolls’ as it were. When they are people…

Kat’s impertinent question leaps straight to the recurring theme of Rhaea being in love with herself (since who else – if all is her mirror – is there for her to be?) Selene’s answer demonstrates a certain detachment still, a self beyond the forces behind her. It’s behavior is also tempered in a way we haven’t seen. So, almost more frightening, are we sure which is the puppet?

I’m not sure I establish well enough what was the intent behind the but about chess. Clearly it was a move meant to evoke a reaction, but it got a different one than intended, and that might have gone unnoticed. Like mistaking one piece in the game for another.

Some other things on my mind for a while get some mention, but we’ll hear about that more soon.

There are only a few thing I want to call out presently in Kat and Liora’s little… argument?

One is Kat’s quote about worms and roots that I lost my mind trying to place either as something I’ve written before, or appropriated from some unknown source. I came up blank on both counts. It’s either derived in the moment from my own past writings, or something obscure I couldn’t identify. Might even occur in this world and I just can’t find it.

A bit bothersome, but Kat had already expressed her ambivalence on the origin before mine set in.

The other issue is I’m unsure I’ve well bridged or placed this interaction with the new context about Selene, but I don’t see Kat mentioning this to Liora which would only serve to insight trouble without good cause.

I also think I need to replace a “, and” with a “. Just” to make one line carry some more punch as it did in my head when I first wrote it.

Kat’s closing scene has proven another interesting use case of the umdetailed love scene, where what is going on in the background of dialogue and emotion is inferred, but the conversation supported still gets what it needs out of circumstances. Without becoming lost or mired in them.

Kat is clearly struggling with a lot in reframing of what she wants, that has never changed, but a certain sense of duty, or wrongness has intruded on old comfortable patterns that she still wants to embrace. Competing rights are emotionally troublesome, and toxic in emotional bare circumstances.

In many ways who Kat is with is ideal for having such struggles. We’ve met so many more Sashas, Elises, and Estaes – the domineering side of this powerful confident female sexuality – it was nice to delve into the nurturing aspect of the Red Women, and their role in society that goes so much more unnoticed, because it keeps things civil and quiet, not noisy. Like good UX goes unnoticed.

As implied this is the path Kat has walked in a round about way. Appearances aside so much of her life has truly been spent beging not what society wanted or needed her to be, but what specific others did. Not without her own wants in the equation but navigating between them.

They all didn’t want to own her, but were either too selfish, or selfless about it. Celia begged her to try to find comfort because she believed this was a higher form of love. Charles wanted a conquest, and got a contest. Mathew felt beneath her, and sought someone ‘more appropriate.’ Maeren was a Red Woman by nature with no title or training. So on and so forth.

Adria was different. She broke Katrisha’s heart in a new way. She made her walk away. Adria would gladly own her, and all at once selflessly (or selfishly?) become her. Which again brings us back to shadows, and mirrors.

Indeed even the Red Women echo or are echoed by other powers in play. Some of what we hear here represent what the Saou were, and how the Assassins began, or are. A social construct in different moral faces, and with drastically more or less social power.

Commentary III:15

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The Reign in Corinthia Falls Mostly on the Plane

Yes, that’s intentionally a busted title.  I had a moment of hating english as I suddenly doubted between plane, and plain.  I mean, plains, are nearly planar, but are not planes, and if you look up plain in some dictionaries the definition of, ‘a large area of flat land’ can be hard to catch sandwiched somewhere between “boring” and some archaic relative of “complain.”

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Commentary III:13

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The Right Thing

I’ve been trying to post late Saturday night because there is some evidence that this, or posting in the very early mornings gets a little better discovery rate.  More of a feeling, but it bares with data I have from other sources about similar posting patterns on other platforms.  Regardless, I’m glad I dallied, and didn’t just do a simple editing pass.  There was a lot of captured tone, and emotion that came in at the last moment.  It was a bit weird writing the middle of this chapter, (partly) closing a book I never fully opened.

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Chapter III:12

Fire washes the forest all around,
red ‘n orange, summers final crown,

winter brings her cold embrace,
a time at last for sheltered peace,

snows melt in vernum’s calm embrace,
storms break across the forest plains,

summer wakes beneath a sunless sky,
stars each so bright, as midday light,

a moon she rose a mirror to the sun,
to light the night with Laune’s love.

– Songs of the Sun, 32 E.R.

The Autumn Shard

Etore glanced from her quiet corner across the bar. It was busy, but not packed. Frank was rubbing his head, and trying to maintain his temper. It was amusing to watch, as an apologetic waitress scurried off to refill the order. Samantha stood at the bar, and accepted and handful of coins from the sixth woman that appeared from the stairs. Etore shook her head, as Wren appeared a few minutes later. He locked eyes with her, and she turned her eyes to the table, and willed herself to vanish.

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Commentary III:6

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Violent Means

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright sorry, trying again for a short version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gifted Senses

What do gifted senses feel like?  Variable.  That’s the overly short description.  Though most people share a significant overlap. As described elsewhere the brains of gifted have adapted to interpret what they feel.  Nerve signals, and sensations from external sources, moving along existing pathways, and through evolved structures.  Yet given the variability, I will focus on the average, common experience.

People, and animals.  They feel warm, not just when in contact with them, but up to several feet away depending on the gifts of both parties.  Anything more complex, or nuanced than this sense of warmth implies more than life, but rather gift.  Some argue gift and life are effectively the same thing, and there is plenty of evidence to support the claim.  An excess then in this hypothesis begins to open doors, possibilities, an ability to reach out with that gift and touch forces outside of the self.

One of the problems however with satisfying this common hypothesis into a theory is testability.  Ambient variations in the energies found in gift, and living things are variable.  Gifted people like living on ley lines, and nexuses, not simply because it benefits them in practice, but more subtly because it subdues everything else.

Magic feels either hot, or cold.  Depending on the balance of aether uptake, or entropic backlash present in the spell.  Most spells feel cold, because they work with ambient energy, and avoid significant aether uptake.  A pure aether spell does not simply feel hot, but unnerving, unstable, with a strong entropic aura around it as energy levels try to normalize.

Plants feel delicate.  Like webs of warmth around inert mater.  Dryads and shaped plant life tend to have thicker tendrils of warmth running through them, often deep into the heart of even a mighty tree that would normally be entirely inert feeling on the inside.

Stone, and other dense mater.  Feels like a pressure near by.  Gifted can sense the outline of their environment, even the inert parts of it, if they are dense enough.  Being blind, or a lack of light would only marginally impact a gifted individuals ability to navigate.

Wood and cloth.  Dead organic mater has a lingering texture, not generally unpleasant, but more noticeable even than stone.  Pure synthetic fabrics that have not been created through a magical process can be felt more by how they disrupt the air.  Almost noisy, and rough.  Synthetic fabrics formed by magic tend to feel smooth, cool, and oddly enticing.  Enchanted clothing is actually a sensual satin like feeling.  This pleasantness is in part why Clarions do not like to wear enchanted clothing near the skin.  Direct exposure to entropic effects is however the most commonly expressed reason.

Auras are not seen.  This may seem contrary, and most gifted when first told this may be bewildered, but it is easily demonstrated to them.  Just have them close their eyes.  A strong gift still sees their world even through closed eyes.  This is due to the synesthesia applying to multiple parts of their cognition at the same time.  While they feel in an extension of their skin the presence, the fine, and complex detail of the world also hijacks the visual centers of the brain.

To a gifted their sight extends beyond the peripheries of physical vision.  They catch things “out of the corner of their eye,” that are actually behind them, and to the side.  That being said gifted have a blind spot directly at the back, and any more than a foot away.  This is literally a shadow cast by their skeletal structure.  At best they can get a sense of there, or not there, but it is very hard to say more.  This flaw however is countered quite effectively by defensive spells extending their perceptions, but it is still at best, their worst area of perception.  Reduced to an abstract collection of lumps.

Casting a spell comes with a lot more sensations than simply being in the presence of it, and varies by the method used.  Most new spell work is done by hand.  Repetitive motions forming the basis for mnemonic association, physical skill helping to build structure.  When casting in this way one feels sensations flowing along the skin in the direction of applied energy, often a cool sensation like a breeze.

The more gestural a spell becomes, the more of a rush is typically felt through the hand, or limb casting it.  Some times electric sensations, particularly when working with electric charges, or rushes of tingling, cold, warmth, all depending on what is being cast.

Runes, and traditional patterns of magic are not strictly required.  There are physical laws governing the underlying behavior of spells, traditional magic is just a single, highly robust set of patterns that work.  There are others.  Battle mages work to obscure their patterns, and change the structures they use to protect themselves from other mages dismantling their work.  They retrain the meaning of runes, and do other things to effectively encrypt their protections.

Well practiced spells, particularly ones centered on the caster give the same sensation as hand work, but distributed over the body.  One can feel a web of spell lines forming off of the skin, and in some cases even a vague abstraction of self.  As though the caster is becoming the magic.  While maintaining a spell, particularly a defensive array of spells, a caster has extended, and exaggerated senses through their work.  If they release the spell however it will begin to decay, and they will lose most or all awareness of it.  It may even feel less present than the work of other casters, since it still has a harmony derived from their own presence.

“Living Magic,” aka living energy is warm.  Different living things require different frequencies of applied energy to heal, enhance, or shape.  Healing your own kind is easiest, animals, and plants are harder, as you must attuned to them.  Generally speaking all living energy is compatible, but the wrong type will feel odd, even unpleasant, and most often be less effective.  Clarion healing practices tend to be “close” but the healer is extolled to remain in their own personal frequency, and not attune to the one they are healing.  This makes the process much less pleasant for the healed, and even if the healer tries, makes them far less able to subdue pain in the patient.  Clarion healing can actually even feel cold and hot at the same time.

Lycian healers practice attunement with the healed, this creates feedback loops between the nervous systems of the two parties.  They go beyond merely trying to subdue any pain, or discomfort, but to impart pleasant sensations that they will feel mirrored in the point of contact.  With deep enough attunement full Mirroring may begin to occur.  In which they feel phantom sensations of what they are doing in the same part of their own body.  Such mirroring is rare except among lovers, who when using such practices to impart pleasure may begin to feel a sense of the other persons physical sensations.

Healed, or otherwise imbued tissue is more sensitive, and aware.  This can significantly exaggerate sensation.  Sore tired muscles can be restored to a less tired state.  Strained tendons mended.  Bone fractures repaired.  This does not just apply to soldiers, and lovers, but also to pack animals.  Druids, who are more practiced in attuning to non-human energies will often tend to pack animals on long, arduous caravan trips.  The best caravans travel with at least one mage, one druid, and one conventional healer.  Though some times generalists will do, occupying two or more of these roles.  Some caravan masters swear by two generalists instead, particularly when traveling through safer lands.  Most however prefer the reliability of a full compliment on retainer.

Healing an animal is different than healing a person.  Animals will panic if the healer does not attune, and attuning makes the healer (usually druid) feel a bit more animal like.  Often hungry, and absent minded, wanting a nap, or detached.  Clarions generally will not perform such services under any circumstances.