Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning 02: Worldshore

“Ah, the southern shores are the best, my friend.  Warm and friendly and close enough to the continent to have all manner of exotic goods.”

Narnemvar gestured expansively toward the rest of the hut, as if it were a grand and mysterious inn, rather than a poky little dump where one family offloaded mikla too sour to sell in any town.  At least too sour to sell in any self-respecting town.  He was lying in a braided hammock, which was the only comfortable seat in the place.  His friend, Postlavanderon, often called Lavvi, was slumped on the floor, feeling queasy.  His friend’s servant was outside, having refused to sully the soles of his shoes with the dirt of this particular hut.

Three grubby children followed by two plumping piglets swarmed in from one side of the hut and began to pester their dozing mother for food.  She swatted at them all, indiscriminately, until they exited out the other side. 

“Ah, a hut with many doors.  A marvellous thing.”  Narnemvar wasn’t drunk, although many might mistake him for being so.  He liked to think of himself as expansive and jovial.  Oh, and sprightly, young, and fun-loving.  The young part was receding a bit farther than he suspected, though.

He wasn’t at slim as he used to be, for one thing.  And though he still wandered the worldshore without care or burden, he was beginning to wander it with a series of friends further and further from his own age.

Postlavanderon, for instance had older brothers who had once wandered with the Merry Mage.  They were all members of minor nobility – absolute rulers of a small, southern island.  One by one they had all settled down and gotten on with adulthood.  Narnemvar pitied them.  Not for getting married or for siring children.  Not exactly, anyway.  It just seemed that their ability to pun and carouse had diminished as they aged into their settled lives.

Most people thought of drinking when they thought of carousing.  Narnemvar didn’t.  He rarely drank and tended to stay sober even when he did, if sober was a word that could be applied to him.  Carousing was acting up.  Acting out.  Teasing the world until it stopped plodding on in its rut and danced a little.  Or threw rocks.  Something, at least.

When he had turned 35, Narnemvar had started getting white streaks in his beard.  He had shaved it off.  Once.  Then he had decided that streaky beards were droll.  He grew the beard back and added a few.  You never knew how many there would be, or what color.  No one ever knew that Narnemvar hadn’t liked the look of the shaven face that looked back at him from mirrors, when the beard wasn’t there.

A small cat began to play with the ribbons that hung from his sleeves.  He encouraged it, humming happily.  Postlavanderon lurched to his feet and staggered out of the hut.  The Merry Mage quieted, wondering if his friend was ill.  He decanted himself from the hammock and followed him out, readying himself to offer any healing or purging that his friend might need.

Out on the sand, a small table had been lashed together out of driftwood and twine.  On the table were the toilet articles with which a proper noble would begin his day.  On the other side of it, an improper noble was relieving himself against a rock.  The servant stood at attention near the table, in proper inattention at his master’s actions. 

Narnemvar laughed.  “Shortbread, how do you manage to do it?  This is wonderful!”

“Do you have any mint water?” Postlavanderon asked.

“No, sir.  Only the ginger and the lavender.”

“The ginger, then, I think.”

“Yes, sir.”  And only a small amount of rummaging in their bags produced a bottle and glass.  The glass was thick and clear, an object of obvious worth in a world whose hand-blown glasses tended to the slightly muddled, bubbled, and distorted.

Postlavanderon seated himself on the rock, carefully avoiding the wet side.  His servant, actually named Satbada, handed him the beverage and ignored him as he gargled and swished it through his teeth.  He was busy popping a towel into a pot that was sitting on some nearby coals.

“Oh, I do have to watch this, Lavvi.  This is high comedy.” Narnemvar wound himself down into a cross-legged sit, wind-milling his arms, fanning his long coat, and grinning hugely as he circled in descent.  Postlavanderon crossed his fingertips and pressed them to his stomach, leaning back and tilting his head slightly.  Satbada wrung out the hot towel on two sticks as precisely as a court juggler and wrapped it neatly around and over his master’s face.  A tiny air hole was positioned exactly over Lavvi’s now-hidden nose.  Time passed.

In the passing time Satbada stood at attention at his master’s side, ignoring his master’s improper companion as diligently as he ignored his master’s own improprieties.  Narnemvar grinned and held out his arms, basking in the incongruence of such courtly behavior in such uncourtly circumstances.  He also basked in the glow of the magic he had drawn up, but did not now seem to need.  He would hold it, as an exercise, letting it dribble away as slowly as possible, in such small amounts that it could be persuaded to do nothing noticeable.


Or, perhaps he would think of something amusing to do with it.  You never knew.

The children and the pigs could be heard sporting somewhere unseen as Satbada judged the moment right and began to concoct perfect lather out of an ermine shaving brush, imported shaving soap, and a cracked coconut.  Gulls cried and the morning sea breeze caressed by as he removed the cooling towel and began to apply the scented foam.

Postlavanderon held his leaning pose, moving not at all.  Silent.  Narnemvar hummed, satisfied with the world, holding the magic with no effort at all.  It amazed him, sometimes, what a groaning mess most people made of magic.  Ah, well.  Life was good if you didn’t chew at it too rabidly.  For instance, his friend and he had wandered into this otherwise miserable little hamlet, but because they had no great need for it to be anything other that what it was, they could enjoy it and enjoy themselves and wander on when the mood shifted.

Satbada shaved the young man he never, ever thought of as Lavvi.  He kept his back as much as possible to that other person.  It was a pity that Cadet Postlavanderon had not yet tired of this wearisome flaunter, as his brothers had, but it would happen soon.  Soon they would be back in civilized lodgings and behaving with proper manners.  The hated tag of Shortbread would be forgotten.

Satbada’s hands were quick and sure.

“Do you know, you make exactly the same moves every time?”

Satbada ignored.  Postlavanderon remained silent, head back, eyes closed.

“It’s like you don’t to many shaves, just the same shave again and again.”

Perhaps it was that the title Cadet was too likely to be a lifelong one.  The ruler of a southern island, of any size, was a Hroon.  The first and second sons (daughter’s, too, on some islands) were the Haran and the Hareen.  Subsequent sons were Cadet, an off-island term.  And Cadet Postlavanderon had enough older brothers to know that it would take quite a disaster for him to get anything like official influence. 

“You do the same thing with cookies, you know.  The same eating routine over and over.  Raise cookie.  Position cookie against tongue.  Position teeth against cookie.  Press through.  Remove cookie.  Eight chews and a swallow. . . “

Satbada ignored.  It was taking a little more effort now, though.

“. . . Sip beverage daintily.  Lower beverage.  Position cookie nearly against tongue.  Rotate cookie counter-clockwise to align the next bite.  Position teeth. . .it’s the same cookie again and again.  Sometimes I wonder if you do it so that you don’t have to excrete it.”

Postlavanderon allowed his head to raise as Satbada finished the last bit on his chin and began clearing short hairs from the hairline on his forehead.  With an almost sleepy movement he reached up and wiped a bit of moistness on Satbada’s sleeve.  Satbada ignored.  He had to stop and allow himself to sag unresisting in order to ignore.  Stiffness would imply disapproval.  It wasn’t his place to disapprove.

Postlavanderon’s cheek wiped against his sleeve.  Then the cheek shifted and his master’s hand held his as his cheek rubbed against his wrist, like a cat or a toddler wanting attention.  More ignoring, no resistance.  Postlavanderon shifted and drew the shaving knife across his throat.

It was a good thing that Satbada was quick.  It was also good that Narnemvar still had his magic ready.


Twentieth Beginning: PETITION TO THE MUSE

WHEREAS, the muse is known by all to be the wellspring of good life, bringing prosperity, joy, and friendship; and

WHEREAS, a petition to the muse, according to established formulas, is an indication that a writer is working within proper literary tradition; and

WHEREAS, the voice of the muse is treasured by writers for the inspiration, aid, and encouragement that it brings; and

WHEREAS, the muse may evoke memory, parting the years to expose access to long hidden events, and may also discern truth from lies; and

WHEREAS, the muse may use a willing writer to shape the past so that it might flow to form the future; and

WHEREAS, the undersigned is willing to sacrifice sleep and all other striving in order to offer service to the muse and is willing to be guided by her weakest whisper;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that I, the undersigned, do PETITION THE MUSE for inspiration and guidance in my scheduled writing project, offering to be tossed upon the rivers of her reverie, offering to be wracked with rapture and woe, offering to sit upon her tripod and bend all possible skill to the coming tale, though the tempest of her inspiration should batter my ribs, chap my cheeks, and cool all other enthusiasms in my heart and brain.

BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that the resulting work shall be sealed in honor of she from whom its inspiration flowed, that its worth, which she has summoned, shall linger to illuminate her lustrous dignity going forward. 

Signed on the _______ of ______________________
at _________________________________________________

Print Name                                                     Sign Name

____________________________     ________________________

____________________________     ________________________

____________________________     ________________________

____________________________     ________________________

Nineteenth Beginning 01 (NaNoWriMo 2005) Worldshore

Morganzer scowled and poked at the drying scrapes on her knee, defiantly not looking out over the sea to watch for approaching ships.  She had scried the nemen’s ship’s arrival off and on for the last two weeks and it had always come in through the rocks in exactly the same way at exactly the same time.  It was horrible of the aunts to make her climb all this way up the rocks just to “Confirm the Actuality” – it implied that they didn’t trust her magic.

The scowl deepened and Morganzer picked off a scab to watch the blood pool again.  Although she would have liked to watch it run down her leg, there wasn’t nearly enough available for that. 

“I bet they’re jealous because I’m so good at scrying.  There isn’t anyone Topside who’s better than I am.  I bet if one of them had seen the ship so well, they wouldn’t have checked it out.  They’d have just made their plans to meet the nemen and expected them to be there.”

The rocks around Topside were craggy, dark, and bare.  They were also numerous.  There were vastly more of them than there was of Topside.  Topside was a small indentation, rather than a proper valley, at least compared to the volume of rock around it.  One end of Topside was situated near the edge of a long stretch of bare, icy cliff and the other wandered in to end in upthrusting rock after a day’s walk.  The sea around it was peppered with narrow extrusions of weathered rock, many of them taller than the cliff, that ranged out for several miles.  It was a difficult place to get to, between the rocks, the sea, and the chilling wind; and when you got there, well, you’d probably decide that it hadn’t been worth the trouble.

Topside was at the far north of the worldshore, the aunts said.  They said that was why it was so cold so much of the time and why the growing season was so short.  They said that was why no one was prepared when the nemen came.  Who would find such a well-hidden valley?  Who would bother to plot and plan and conquer it, when there was so little there worth conquering?

It was a good thing, they said, that the women of Topside had always been good at scrying.  It was a good thing that everyone had had time to prepare.  The men hadn’t liked the idea of leaving, but they could see into the bowl, if enough aunts were working it.  They could see that they would die if they stayed. 

According to the skipping songs that Topside children sang, some had claimed it was a lie – a trick the aunts were pulling to steal the town from the men.  Some had said that they should fight and die – to keep their honor if not their lives.  And some had actually argued that the women should come away, too.  As if that was likely to happen.  Scryers don’t spend generations and dozens of lives chasing a prophesy just to let some inconvenience drive them away.

So the nemen had plotted their way through the sea’s teeth and prepared to either bushwhack someone gone down a rope ladder for a sea harvest or to make the tortuous climb up the cliff.  They had prepared to conquer.  They had found, instead, several rope ladders waiting for them, along with a few middle-aged aunts with an unexpected proposal.  Morganzer screwed her fading frown back down.  You had to be suspicious of aunts with a story.  Aunts were usually up to things.

“Ho, the rock!” 

Morganzer recognized the voice.  “Ho, yourself.”  Her voice was sullen.  Lillibell was her favorite aunt and she wasn’t in a mood to be mollified.

“Do you mind if I don’t climb all the way up?”  Lillibell was pushing a bit past middle-age and was showing more than the normal number of decrepities.  She had arthritis in her hips and a number of digestive difficulties.  The other aunts were starting to pity her and to plot between themselves when she walked by. 

“Suit yourself.  Unless you have to verify that I’ve Confirmed the Actuality.”  Morganzer didn’t like the thickness of the sulk that showed in her voice.  To show that she wasn’t being an entire baby about things, she passed a glance out over the water, to show willing.

“According to the scry, the Actuality won’t settle for awhile, yet.  It’s not just you, you know.  Scryers have to check to be sure that they haven’t gotten lost in their old predictions.  The better the scryer, the more necessary it is.”

“Did you know, little goose, that a really good scryer will sometimes scry spell-less?  That you can actually believe that a prediction has happened, when it’s something still to come?  Or that had changed and will never come?”

“You need to start the habit now, gosling.  It has to become part of you, for your own protection.  The better you are, the more often you must check your reality.”

“Mmmph.”  Morganzer wasn’t sure that Aunt Lil could hear her.  She was pretty sure that her response would be assumed.  Aunt Lil’s scrying had never been good and was heading downhill, but her assuming was excellent, especially among folk she’d helped herd as younglings.

“So how long ‘til you’ll see them?”

“Another three hours.”

“And what will you be doing when they come?”

There was a long pause while the girl considered.

“I hadn’t thought to look for that.”

“So, there was no leak-through?  You checked several times, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I was looking for something specific.  That’s how you get a good view.  You focus on something specific.”

“Ah, but what do you miss, focusing in so tight?  You’re near enough, here, for an arrow-shot from the ship.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Not a good shot, no.  Not an easy one.  It would be a long shot.   A show-off shot.  An I’m-my-father’s-true-son-these-dirt-grubbers-have-no-importance shot.”


“You never know with these people.  You know that they’re warriors, but you’ve only ever dealt with the older men.  They’re sure of their place, the old ones.  Maybe there are others somewhere else who aren’t sure, but the ones who come here are confident.  They know their accomplishments.  The young ones don’t have accomplishments, yet.  They don’t really know if they’re ever going to have them.  They only know that they need them.  They need them badly.  More than a Topside daughter needs to scry, nemen boys need to hear other men saying that they’re true warriors.  It can make them cranky.  And foolish.”

“So, did you climb all the way up here to tell me that?”

“No, I climbed up here to ask you to hide when you come down.”


“Things are chancy.  We’ve gotten word from Downside.  It’s your brother, mostly.”

“What about him?  If you want to talk about cranky and foolish boys, you can include him.”

“Yes, he doesn’t like having a sister telling him what to do, does he?”

“He should be sensible and accept it.”

“The way you accept what the aunts tell you to do?”


“Anyway, you know that he has to go away soon, right?”

“Yes.” That caught at Morganzer’s stomach a bit.  It was perfectly right and sensible that boys should go away before they started causing trouble with the nemen.  But thinking about her own brother being somewhere so far away that she could only scry him, never see him, was . . . different.  Not that she’d admit it.

“Downside has Looked into that for awhile, now, and it seems that if you don’t lay low tonight, he’s likely to get himself killed.  No one knows how, it was a short message – if you’re out and about, he ends up dead.”

“So where do I go?  There aren’t that many places to hide, Topside.”

“Well, it all depends.  Do you think you’re old enough to try a teleport spell?”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Comments on the Eighteenth Beginning

The Houseboat on the Styx is an old bit of writing. 

The rivers are a single river that flows in the shape of a Lorenz butterfly.  The traditional rivers of Hades are: 

Styx, river of  hate or detestation;
Lethe, river of unmindfulness or forgetfulness, said to flow around the cave of Hypnos;
Archeron, river of woe or sorrow;
Pyriphlegethon, river of fire;
Cocytus, river of wailing and lamentation.

Eridanos, is another river sometimes associated with Hades or being underground.  Phaeton died and fell from the sky, struck by Zeus' thunderbolt, and tumbled into the Eridanos.

I had gathered a story of Tiresias  to add in, but I can't find it again and it may have been deleted from wikipedia as inaccurate.  He was a blind seer. His daughter in the old story I'd gathered was Daphne but the current wiki article says it was Manto. 

In my story, she drops in on her way to be reborn.  He mocks her as she passes.  She will not give up either life or wisdom and prophecy.  He cannot bear both together and will not be parted from prophecy.  He is therefore the only aware being in his section of the butterfly.  They enter the boat as it passes a copse of dead trees with suicides hanging from them.

Other notes for the story include:
  • There is an area ruled by Chronos, who mutters of older gods.
  • A spring called Tilphussa can 'kill' the dead.
  • Before the entrance to Hades live Grief and Anxiety, along with Diseases and Old Age. 
  • Also Fear and Hunger and Death and Agony and Hypnos (Sleep), brother of Thanatos (Death), dwell in this place together with Guilty Joys. 
  • On an opposite threshold is War, the ERINYES and Eris (Discord).  (So the different rivers run by different lands.)
 "In the midst of all this an Elm can be seen and False Dreams cling under every leaf."

There is [to be continued]