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:9

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Not What the Fox Says But How

So.  Torta.  It happened.  Knighted wolf, why not.  Shark jumped.  Oh, who knows, the closets sharks are a very long ways from Helm’s Hollow.  The Hidden City.  Helm, as in helmet has a meaning coming from hidden.  Too clever by half, probably.

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Chapter III:1

Her name was Katrisha –
daughter of the moonlight and the winter frost,
Court Mage of Avrale, and a woman of Lycian faith.

In but a few scarce years of her youth,
she fought a dragon, and nearly won,
knew true love, and most plainly lost.
No less than twice stood at death’s door,
yet these things, were only her beginning.

– The Mage of Avrale, Mercu Peregrine

The Turning of Pages

Vhalun 22nd, 655 E.R.

An unseasonable spring snow fell that morning. A thick blanket that washed color from the valley, and topped the parapets of Broken Hill in caps of white. It was the sort of morning that invited a leisurely pace. Stirred a sense of calm. A desire to linger near hearth, and other warm refuge. High in the westward tower of the castle. Above steep stone cliffs and shimmering waters. A woman of great and terrible power worked subtle magic, to profound effect. She bore the snow little mind. Though it was often among her favorite things. Other wonders had her full and rapt attention.

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Stray Thoughts

I’ve said before, I’ll say it again.  I found myself writing Accidental YA, and what to do with that I still don’t know.  Order & Entropy is a world born of authorial exploration, stray musics of ethos and value.  It is a world far more complex than we readily think appropriate for children.  It is a world filled with passions both pious and perennial.  Ambitions, and desires.  Only as safe as we fool ourselves to think it is.  Just like our own.

It is a hard thing sometimes to be comfortable with my choices.  That the musings of a lost lover did spur me to consider so much of what underpins this massive endeavor.  So much of what we do, so much of our norms, our taboos, our actions, and expressions are rooted in this fundamental part of our organic existence.  These things we spend so much time running from, or towards.  Utterly confused between the animal and the angel.

My twins were always these women.  My intentions always to write serious fiction in which a fundamental aspect of human life, is treated exactly the way we treat it.  Messy, complicated, profound, foolish, unwise, wonderful, dangerous, biased, shameful.  Its there, theres no getting around it, and some of us, are more or less comfortable about the mater, or admitting the truth.  People live and die for this.  People fight, and kill for this.  People reject their own blood, for this.  Empires rise, and fall, for this.  Perhaps we fear it for good reason.  We are so easily so immature about it, because we hide from it.

All at while I live in this world, and with the realities we do.  I have the authorial aesthetics that I do, and desire to write to a broad audience, even when I am already quite niche.  Too heady and intellectual.  Blending sci-fi like elements into a pure fantasy world.  This is not a place I wish to readily digress into repetitive descriptions of carnal acts, as much as I seem determined to delve extensively into all the humanity around them.

Katrisha was always this woman, and I won’t permit myself to change her.  These characters, have taken on a life of their own, but I must own that they began more human than some simple archetype.  That the roles we step into, we bring something of ourself into.  I have tied a beautiful and tangled knot.  One that would not be, if not for a simple choice.  A or B.  The answer in my heart was, and still remains, “If it is a choice, then a thousand times B.”

What we can expect, as we journey together into known, and unknown waters of Book III, is more of the same, but different.  I am writing the tale of youth trapped in the shadows of prophecy.  Of a woman who literally loves at the drop of a hat, of her sister who can’t imagine opening herself up so easily, and their brother, who is caught far more closely up in these perilous times than I had previously imagined.  There will be metaphysics, and portents, passion, and strife.  People will make choices, for good or ill.  Driven by a diverse background of perspectives, and ambitions.

Now I move on from the Accidental YA I wrote, to the New Adult I first set out to write.  I’ll just have to ask forgiveness, because I sure am not asking permission.

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.

Chapter 21

The like of our kind are ever too hard to find,
whom have seen those same follies of men,
know their prejudice and reject such premise,
never to pronounce or malign without merit,
those of good character yet odd demeanor.

– Sylva Grey, circa 160 E.R.

Kindred Spirits

Coria 25th, 650 E.R.

“Is everything alright?” Mercu asked as he entered Laurel’s study, and considered the way he was leaned on the central table.

“They are hiding things from me,” Laurel said tersely.  “And don’t be cute, and try and comfort me with how absurd that sounds.  You are losing your touch, if you think that will work a third time.”

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Chapter 13

What it asks so rarely spoken,
upon every failing hearts are broken,
aspire to grace to match such form,
then be for least human want forlorn,
no other nature could I ardently so adore,
and upon demands of this world so abhor,
I begin and end it seems always on this,
the glory and curse of all that is, feminine.

– Sylvia Grey, circa 135 E.R.

The Lady of the Tower

Styver 1st, 648 E.R.

Katrisha sat in an obscure corner of the castle ramparts, tucked into the crenulation, and largely out of view of prying eyes.  It was a cold evening, and though normally such things did not bother her, it made her all the more aware of a warmth that was missing.  The pang of that had a certain appropriateness that she clung to.

She thumbed slowly through a red leather bound book she had found on the highest shelf in Mercu’s private collection.  She had suspected what it was for some time.  The red leather, the way it had been pushed to the back of the shelf.  She had never sought it out in her time at Highvale.  Wren had been right in her estimation, you figure things out, and that could be part of the joy.  Yet past those hurdles, and facing ones far less clear cut or pleasant, temptation had finally won.

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