Friday, November 30, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning 29: Worldshore

[As mentioned in the previous post, we are now in the OMG, it's nearly November 30! portion of NaNoWriMo.  Yes, I know this is just an outline, but you have to admit, it's not a rough outline.  It's pretty smooth in places.  It's in blue to show that I know that it's not anything close to finished work. 
And, yes, the punctuation is starting to go.  Be warned that things will get spottier as we go on from here.]
The wandering trio Narnemvar Postlavanderon and Satbada, sometimes known as Shortbread by idiot masters and their impossible friend bumble along through the woods.  Satbada had been told of the recent revelations and is pondering his place in the world and the relative importance of the idiot sorcerer.  He can’t decide whether to disapprove of him or not and eventually decides to provisionally both approve and disapprove of him. 

Narnemvar is still naked and is starting to walk better, although it becomes obvious that someone needs to stay right beside him to keep him from stumbling over things that he doesn’t notice.  He doesn’t seem to notice this, or at least he doesn’t seem to care whether he falls and whether other folks have to keep him from falling.  His mood is starting to improve and he’s starting to compose limericks about their situation.  He says that it will help him keep things straight in his mind

Postlavanderon says that sonnets would be more aesthetically pleasing and Narnemvar says that you need a proper desk and chair and quill to do a proper sonnet and what’s the point of an improper sonnet why an improper sonnet is no better than a limerick, besides being harder to memorize on the hoof

Lavvi disagrees and tells of parties he’s been to in the central valley where sonnets were composed literally on the hoof on the backs of purebred horses – walker horses with gates as smooth as a calm sea and he describes the ladies who were riding and poetizing and how good two of his sisters were at it

Narnemvar agrees that if his sisters were there on horseback that they could compose sonnets and he would try to keep up.  but they are not here, obviously, or he would be wearing clothes so he will do limericks, thank you, and he will do them in the buff as the walk north

Lavvi concedes the limericks but suggests that they try to catch a boat as far south as they can and travel wes.  That way they can travel to his island home and consult with his father and his father’s network of mages and philosophers and other sorts, while still going north for Satbada’s sake

If they leave off getting a boat too long by the time they get it, they’ll have to go west, which would put their unfortunate servant at risk.  Satbada does not shudder at being called ‘their’ servant, but he really doesn’t like it.  It’s blurring boundaries.  He likes clear boundaries, which is one of the reasons that he doesn’t like Narnemvar.  Narnemvar is neither fish nor fowl, although I need to find a more otherworldly way of saying that.

Narnemvar agrees with the search for a boat thing.  He starts to recite the basics of their situation and compose from it.  Let’s see – there will probably be lewd rhymes with or references to sausage,  twist, tube, curse, shortbread, bloat, lifting a foot, log, entering, going north, contagion, fear, snot, patches, marks, and other things

leg beg keg dreg peg  - not profitable

sausage, bedge, dredge, fedge – fudge, hedge, wedge, ledge, sedge, possibly something could be done with that

twist, enlist, fist, kissed, dissed, gist, hissed, missed, pissed, wrist, cyst, blissed, something could definitely be done with that, but not pertaining to the situation

tube, boob, cube, goob, lube, rube,  - maybe

perhaps even limericks are too much for me in my current wasted state

“that’s a shame” again, Satbada’s voice had no trace of sarcasm.  that had to be supplied.  that should be at the very end of the section.  to parallel the other section that ended that way

In the meantime, Postlavanderon is wracking his brain to see if he can remember some connection of his family’s that might be located in the area.  he can’t remember anyone as coming from the finger, which is populated mostly with transients – smugglers and traveling merchants and seamen on leave and the kind of people who like to live in huts with pigs

he lists off mentally a number of merchants who might have traveled to the finger on an ongoing basis.  he tries to think where they might drop anchor.  there are some rocky places, he finally remembers and they are currently parallel to them.  it’s only past them that the beaches spread out and it’s just at the area past the rocks that ships are most likely to be. 

he passes that news on to his friend, who asks how much of a walk he thinks it will be to that place.  Postlavanderon thinks that if they walk through lunch, they’ll probably be able to get by the worst of it.  are you up to it dear boy, bosom chum

isn’t chumming something to do with fish?

yes it’s throwing tasty things into the water to attract them and distract them from looking for the hooks

I’ve met a few bosoms that would distract me from most things

yes but are you up to it

perhaps I would be up if a chummy enough bosom was about

was about, what would a bosom be about, my chum

ah, it’s a pity I’m decrepit and off my game, the only thing I can come up with is the old joke – what is that peasant about – it looks like he’s about five foot three

dear me, that is a decrepit one – is the trail starting to angle towards the ocean?

It seems to be, sir. 

the sound of Satbada’s voice makes them all think of lunch and they enquire if they have anything that could be eaten while walking.  There is some dried fish, but that is usually boiled before being eaten.  and there is flour, but that also requires preparation

they banter about their unfortunate situation and when Narnemvar says he’s not likely to be hungry for a day or two, they decide to walk through the day with just water

there is some talk about how long the water will last, but Narnemvar says that as humid as it is, he can tease water out of the air.  they empty one of the waterskins into the others and he spells it to collect water.  he says that it won’t add much more than a cup to the days rations, but that he can spell the others as they empty

they talk about deliberately emptying a skin, but decide against it.  they are once more witty and bantery and Narnemvar succeeds at long last in composing a limerick of which he is moderately proud, but only because he was able to do it at all under such duress.  he celebrates by stopping long enough to put pants on. 

while stopped, he notices that his friends hadn’t been joking about the hair fraying away.  he is now bald across the top of his head.  it look like someone took his hair and slid it back it makes almost a straight line from the top of his ears, angling up in back to reach almost the top of his head

He notices that he can almost feel an extension of his hair around him.  He follows the feeling into the magic, finding that there are tendrils of his hair flowing into the magic, radiating out all around him, he wonders about cat whiskers and whether he will be able to read magic if he bumps up against it with his hair ends. 

he starts trying to compose a limerick about his hair

Nineteenth Beginning 28: Worldshore

Daffak was still scowling when he walked up, planting his feet with a thump. 

“Hey, Morganzer,”  Lillibell was cheerful.

Morganzer looked up at her brother.  There were many things that she could say.  She was supposed to be thinking about how to send him down to the nemen so that he’d say what needed to be said to get them away.  She could challenge him or order him or flatter him.  She could . . .

“Can I see it?”  It was a personal question.  It had nothing to do with getting things done properly.


“The wolf cub.  Can I see it?”


“Because I’d like to.  We’re going to be arguing and stuff soon enough.  And I’ve never seen one.  Will it bite me?”

“No, she won’t bite you.  Her name is Felt.  I keep telling everyone that she’s not a wolf cub, she’s a puppy.”

“What’s a puppy?”

“A dog cub.  Do you know what a dog is?”

“Sort of.”

“Do you know anything that isn’t is some stupid bowl?”  Daffak’s voice rose with his anger.

I know that I’m going to win this argument, thought Morganzer.  I’ve seen it. 

“I know a few things.  I saw her in the bowl yesterday, and the day before.  But I didn’t see much – just her nose sticking up out of your shirt.  She licked your chin a couple of times.  She obviously likes you a lot.  But that doesn’t mean that she’d like me.”

Daffak looked closely at his sister.  He still wanted to argue with her, but it was hard to argue with someone who was agreeing with you. 

“I don’t want to leave.”

“Neither do I.  The old ones say they don’t see me coming back.  I forgot to ask about you.  Maybe you do come back.”

“Hmp.  Just like you to forget.”

“I didn’t see who was coming with us, either, but it looks like it’s Lillibell.  I did see what would happen if we stayed.  You die tonight.  I die tomorrow.  There are other arguments.  I don’t know who else is hurt.  They said that the cub would die, too, but I didn’t look for that.  The rest was ugly enough.”

“Why?  What happens to kill us?”

“One of the young ones.  One of the nemen who’s never been away from home before.”  Morganzer noticed that Daffak flinched when she said nemen.  I noticed that at least.  “He wants to mate me.  What he does – the old ones say that probably he doesn’t like wanting to mate me and he’s away from home.  Somewhere where the home rules don’t apply.  And he thinks having a clutch of foreign women stashed away, ready to wash and coddle you is dishonorable and soft. 

They say he was probably full of boy’s tales of bravery and looting and spent the voyage being disappointed with a ship full of men who were real men and not story men.”  She noticed that he was watching her closely.  His face was still, which wasn’t the usual thing with Daffak.  “Anyway, that’s the way they talk.  I probably couldn’t confirm it even if I looked.  You can’t hear what anyone says, let alone know what they’re feeling.

All I know is that he saw me when they came through to go south and he’s going to look for me and he’s going to hit me and yell at me.  And you’re going to protect me and he’ll kill you.  Unless you kill him, and then the men will kill you.  And then the next day he strangles me.  And it makes everyone edgy.”

“You know why, don’t you?  Why it’s bad enough to prickle everyone’s back?”

Morganzer frowned.  To her mind two murders were enough to prickle anyone’s back.  

“I know who it has to be.  He’s our brother.  He’s Bron’s oldest child.  He should stay away from you completely.  Never touch you.  If he can’t stop himself from doing that, well, it dirties everyone.  You and me.  Father.  The men he ships with.  He’ll probably be kill himself later or pick a fight with someone who can kill him easily.  This is - - this is just bad.”

Daffak was clutching his middle.  One arm cradled the cub against his chest and the other held his stomach.  He was upset enough to spit sweat. 

“Well, according to the bowls you can get us away.”

“By lying to father.”

“Yes.  But I’m guessing that he’d want you to do that, if he knew.  You know him better than I do.  Would he lie, himself, to prevent this?”

Daffak looked up at the brightening sky.  He rocked back and forth on his heels then bumped up on his toes a couple of times rocking the cub.  He seemed to be relaxing.

“Yes.  I think he would.  I think he’d want me to lie, too.  If he knew.  But he’d have to know about Bronlet’s problem, first, in order to want it.  And he’d have to know about scrying to know about that.  Fernie, we lie to him so much already.”  Daffak was wilting with unhappiness.  Morganzer let the ‘Fernie’ slide.  She had never really considered her father to be family.  Daffak obviously did.  It made things a lot harder for him.

“Did anyone tell you what you’re supposed to say?”

“Sort of.”
"Well, first, you need to talk to the chief, not Father.  That's the proper way to do this, it's the men's way."
"You said you can't hear anything.  How can you know that?"
Morganzer stifled the wave of scorn she felt.  Asking how he could know so little about scrying after being raised by and with scryers would do her mission no good.
"I can think of you saying certain things and watch what the reactions are.  You can tell by the set and movement of people's bodies how they're reacting.  Whether they approve or not."
She waits a few moments, watching his reaction.  Then as a quiet aside, "Father looks proud as you talk.  Most of the men, do, but they don't interfere.  They give the conversation space."

"OK.  What do I need to say."
Morganzer talks him through the main points, including that he thinks he needs to sacrifice the cub.  Daffak knows that it’s silly to stick at saying that, particularly, when he's going to be telling so many lies, but . . . 
"It makes me feel funny to think of saying that.  Like I'm wishing that Felt would die."
[About the upcoming blue sections - this story was written for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, in 2005.  Participants sign in and start writing on November 1.  We all attempt to complete 50,000 words by midnight November 30.  This requires 1,667 words per day, Thanksgiving included.
Many of us start out writing in a detailed and complete manner and then as we get further and further behind, we begin to summarize.  By the end we may not even be bothering with coherent sentences and punctuation. 
Hey, editing can come later.  The important thing is the word count, and for those of us following a plot, getting the basic scenes and events down so that the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 
We are about to enter the summary zone.  I've shifted summarized sections to blue to show that I know they're not finished.]

Morganzer says that she saw the cub in the bowl when he was talking to the men, but that it probably doesn’t have to be there if he doesn’t want it to hear that.  He says that of course Felt can’t understand the words and wouldn’t believe them if she could.  Felt is a wonderful friend who trusts him completely.

He lets Morganzer see her, but since she’s asleep, he asks that she not be touched and maybe roused.  She’s playful when she first wakes up

“Does she pee after she wakes?”

Daffak remembers that she does and decides that it would be a good thing to avoid at the big sendoff.  He hands over the cub.  The cub is described in great honking detail and Morganzer reluctantly takes a liking to it.

I’ve decided that Morganzer has no problem lying to the nemen because she sees them as immoral.  The fact that Daffak does not, but rather admires them is a source of conflict between the two.  The whole preceding pages need to be rewritten to illuminate that conflict and it needs to flare a bit here, but not erupt.  Morganzer is too relaxed by knowing that everything is going to go her way to be bothered by her brother harboring icky views.

The two siblings lapse into silence for a bit and, as a sort of background noise, Lillibell tells the two that she’s going to die in three days if she stays.  That one of the men is going to throw her over a cliff.  She won’t die from the fall, but she’ll be broken enough that she won’t be able to move out of the way when the tide comes in.  Also it looks like it hurts a lot.  She’d rather avoid it.

Of course, if she comes, she’ll die in about a week and a half.  She says this quite naturally.  It creeps Daffak off enough that he says well, he’d better get going. and he walks away, taking the cub with him.

not knowing what else to talk about, and definitely wanting to avoid talking about Lillibell’s upcoming death and how she’s probably going to have to find a way to avoid it, Morganzer asks if Lillibell thinks that Felt is a cub or a puppy.  Lillibell asks if it has to be one or the other and Morganzer says of course.  she references some bit of logic that sounds like she had to learn it by rote as part of a philosophy lesson.

Lillibell says that wolves and dogs are near enough to the same kind of animal to mate.  and that sled dogs and wolves have done that in the valley before now.  the dogs went with the folks to Farside, but some of the dogness probably stayed behind in the blood of the local wolves.  It was possible for that dogness to pop back up, leaving one cub in a litter more puppy-like than the others

Morganzer asks what’s a sled?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning 27: Worldshore

“Your clothes appeared to unravel themselves.  It was fascinating to watch, if a little off-putting.  It’s just as well.  You had sweated in them profusely while you were quiet.  Then you started casting and you . . . you almost looked like you were glowing and floating.  You weren’t, of course.  I checked.  But you seemed to be.  And then you clothes unraveled and the strands floated off in streams and disappeared.”  A pause.  “A bit of your hair did, too.  I’m sure it will grow back.”
“Help me up.  I need to walk.”  Narnemvar’s voice was still coarse. 
“Satbada will be packed in a few minutes.”
“No. Now.  I need to move.  Please.”
Postlavanderon helped his friend rise.  It was a more involved process than he has expected.  Narnemvar was shaky and clumsy.  Each movement had several false starts.
“Get me going.  It’ll be slow.  Shortbread will catch up fine.”
“I suspect you’re correct.  Why do you need to hurry?”
“No hurry.  I just need to be moving.  It’s pulling at me and I need to leave it alone.  I need to rest.”
Postlavanderon chuckled.  “So you’re walking in order to rest?  How like you.”
A smile and puff of exhale was as much of a chuckle as Narnemvar could manage. 
“Need distraction.  Need to not think of it.  Need to rest the magic and the thinking.  The body isn’t tired.  It’s been resting.”
“It doesn’t look all that rested.  But we’ll keep you going.  Would you like some water?  I have a bit of brandy tucked away as well.”
“I probably do need water.  But later.  Get the legs working first.  Ohhhhhh.”  The last was almost a whine.  “Talk to me, please.”
“Distraction,” said Postlavanderon.  “must mean slippery, since it is the opposite of traction.  To be devoted is to have no say in the matter.  And I’ve often wondered what the opposite of undulate is?  Would dulate be a synonym for straight? 
I suppose an arrow could dulate toward its target.  But would a very straight path be dulate?  Or would it have to be a dulation?”
Narnemvar smirked.  “D’you think it really matters?”  Then his face fell.
“It’s not working.  I keep thinking about it and reaching for it.  It’s like a scab that I can’t keep from picking.”
“Why don’t you try telling me about it.  You always say that magic is hard to describe.  And you’re not talking that easily now, even about normal things.  Mind the rock.”
“It might be like scratching another place to keep from scratching an itch.”
Narnemvar considered.  Then, haltingly, he started to explain what he had experienced.  He babbled a good bit and swore when thinking about the curse made it hard for him to describe the curse.
Postlavanderon chuckled when he realized that his friend was cursing at a curse. 
Narnemvar looked at him strangely.  “I remember laughing,” he said and then stumbled along silently for awhile.
“Perhaps now would be a good time to offer an underwrap?” Satbada enquired.
“Perhaps soon.  If he looses his concentration he could just unravel again.”
“Not to mention the possibility of pissing myself.  No one mentions it to civilians, but apprentices are always being asked if they remembered to go before the session starts.”
“Indeed.  You will pardon me if I move ahead, to check for other travelers? ”
“Not at all, dear Shortbread.  I promise to dress at least partly if you find any witnesses.”
Postlavanderon chuckled again and considered the oddity of his lifted spirits.  He still didn’t know what had been gnawing at him before, but it seemed to have gone, whatever it was. 
“So, how dangerous is it?”
“I think we’re safe for a few days.  Assuming no one else tries to tap the damn thing, which I can’t guarantee.  The sausage of pustulent vileness that’s now powering the curse isn’t likely to burst, at least not from the back end.  I probably ought to check it along it’s full length, but it wasn’t leaking when I went by it the first time.”
“So conceivably we could travel northward until the pouch is empty.”
“Assuming it’s not too big.”
“Too big?  Are you saying it might be big enough to not be empty by the time we reach the glacier isles?”
“It might not be empty by the time we reach the other side of the globe.  It’s hard to say how big it is.  And the tubes emptying it are tiny.  That’s the main thing.  It empties really slowly compared to its capacity.  Of course I could. . .”  And here he started writhing as he walked and hitting at the air and mumbling curses.”
“Of course you will do something to make the situation better.”  Lavvi’s voice was placating.  “Don’t even bother thinking about it now. First you will find a way to empty the sack.  Then you will remove the curse.  And then you will explore this island of vileness that you have found floating where the fearful can tap it.”
“With the possibility that someone created it deliberately.”
“Yes.  With that.  The location first, I think.  You can get that without touching it much, yes?”
“Yes.  It would have to have a connection to a physical location.  The physical location might not be all that big, depending on how it was made, but it must exist or our weak little curser couldn’t have found it.”
“The location will be a clue to how it was formed and who might have formed it or known that it was forming.”
“True.  Thank you.  It’s starting to be a little easier to leave it alone.  Did I mention that I crimped the tubes?  It leaks ill very slowly now.  Satbada can probably sleep the night and only get ill enough to feel like a hangover in the morning.  He’d probably heal it off like a hangover, too.  Of course, then he’d need to keep walking north.  Stopping would still be a bad thing.”
“I see.  I must congratulate you.  Things are much better than they were this morning.  I’m sorry that it’s hurting you.”
“It’s not pain, really.  Not physical pain.  And I’ve been in this state before, so it’s not really worrying me.  It’s just. . . It’s just so frustrating.”
“Yes.  I think you’d deal with physical pain more easily.”  A pause.  “I must also apologize for causing this difficulty.  Although I must confess that I am glad that we found the larger danger.  I don’t like the idea of big dangers waiting to damage the Worldshore.  I have a proprietary interest.”
“How could you have caused this?  It was the silly villagers who set it up and Shortbread who triggered it.  You’re not thinking that you should have been walking at the head of the line or something, are you?”
“The fear, my friend.  You said that it was a fear of contagion and death and loss of control.  You said that we had probably transgressed a taboo.”
“I might have said that.  It feels like a long time ago.”
“Yes.  It seems like a long time ago to me as well.  But I do remember being shaved.  And I remember that everyone was gone when it was over.  Even the pigs had left.”
“Oh,” said Narnemvar.  There really wasn’t much else to be said.

Nineteenth Beginning 26: Worldshore

It was time to leave Downside.  The men would be in the hall, eating.  The children would be eating, too.  Mackah held a bowl for a quick scry to be sure no one would see, while Morganzer rehearsed the teleport spell in her head.  It wouldn’t work without one of the stones, so she didn’t have to deliberately leave bits out.
The women had fussed and buzzed over her packing.  She was wearing leather over the top of her regular felt and toweling pants and tunic.  Her boots were stitched leather, even on the soles, but they were wrapped in felt and strapping to look like regular footgear.  The straps even held a regular wooden paten onto the bottom.  She had been warned that she might get rubbing sores from the leather.  On top of the leather jacket was a felt poncho and hood.  She was already too hot and more than ready to pop into cooler air.
The aunts finally finished packing her pack and equipping her belt.  Rather than bring it to her, they hurried it away. 
“There’s a pulley that we use to haul gear to the surface.  It’s too small for people.”  Hallacha, motioned everyone else back down the hall.  “Do you want any final words of advice?”
“No.  Not really.”
“Want to know which books we packed?”
“I’ll figure it out.  I need to go soon.”
“Then I’ll just do the standard parting ritual.”
Morganzer stood, showing polite interest.  Her grandmother stepped forward and hugged her. 
“That’s for all of us.  Be safe.”
Morganzer paused, but that seemed to be all of it.  She assumed that they’d watch her as she went and argue over everything she did.  Whether it was right.  Whether it was significant.  Whether it pertained to the prophecy.  There was no need to mention it.
She stepped on the stone and rattled off the spell.  Now that she had used it once, the shifts in the familiar words seemed natural and the shifts to reverse the destination seemed obvious.  A folded moment later she was looking around the burning ground.  She only saw one person, an aunt facing outward, toward the baths, probably to watch for others.  Morganzer walked up to her.
She was one of the shorter, dumpier aunts.  Morganzer recognized her as someone who usually looked after the smallest babies and their mothers, but couldn’t remember her name.  She stood with tendrils of her hair twitching in the wind and turned at the crunch of Morganzer walking up to her.
“I need to leave as soon as possible,” Morganzer said, sounding as much like an aunt as she could.  “There’s some gear coming up.  I don’t know how that works.”
“It comes up in the back of the baths, in a bucket closet.  This way.”
The woman didn’t talk, so Morganzer didn’t talk either.  The path to the baths was flanked with irregularly shaped stones, roughly the size of two big fists, and covered with broken shells.  It was the default task of any child who obviously didn’t have enough to do to keep them out from underfoot to break shells for the path.  Larger children were sent in small groups (supervised) to collect the shells.
The crunch of the shells under her feet was a familiar sound, even if the new boots changed the feel of the path.  It wasn’t far to the baths.  She wondered vaguely why that was so, but wasn’t interested enough to ask.  Maybe the stone couldn’t transport people very far, side to side, so that it had to be over the stone it was sending to.  Otherwise, you’d want the place further out of range of causal eyes.  Maybe the burning stone was the farthest away that Downside ran, under ground.
They entered the bath house from the rear.  One single turn took them to the bucket room.  Remove two buckets from two shelves, fold a section of shelf up, and open a door in the wall.  Simple.  Morganzer watched the aunt pull her pack and belt out and close the opening.  She walked to a pump and basin near the door and filled two water skins, tying them tightly to the belt.
“Your brother is coming down from about mid-valley.  I don’t know how far up the trail you need to meet him, but it would probably be best to be out of sight.  You can sit in the office, if you want to wait for him to get closer.”
“No, I’ll walk up as far as the second split.  It’s dark now, but it won’t be long before the sun rises.  Have you got a torch?”
The aunt nodded and left the closet, holding the door for Morganzer to follow, then closing it.  Another closet further along held other gear, including a bin of summer torches.  Morganzer waited in the hall as the aunt fetched it and lit it by holding it under the gas lamp on the hallway wall.  It bloomed with a whoosh into flames that could barely be seen against the other light.
“Thanks.”  A pause. “Say goodbye for everyone for me.  Tell them I’d have given them a hug if I’d had time.”
“Some might see you before you go.  I’ve seen the men giving you a sendoff.”
“Well, after it all, then.  If anyone needs it.”
“I’ll do that.  I’d better get back.  We learned long ago that if someone is going to do something out of the ordinary, everyone else should be seen doing just their regular things.  They count noses when anything new happens, just out of habit.  I’d hate to see what their lives are like other places, if they’re that suspicious here.
I’ve heard folk say that the nemen think that there were supervisors left, who took over after the prince stopped coming.  Male supervisors.  That they think that we killed them and that’s why we were out of men.  You know the story of the prince?”
“Some of it.  We tell ourselves stories, too.”
“Yes.  Stories.  When you get past one set, you find another.  Go with luck.”
The aunt closed up the rear of the bath house and walked off toward the women’s house, without looking back.  Morganzer followed the trail, holding the torch out level in front of her.  In the dimmer light you could see the summerflame, flashing cool, light blue flames.  Summerflame danced wildly and broadly, but gave off no heat and could not be used to kindle anything but another summerflame.  It would be safe in the dry summer grass in the valley. 
Morganzer strode off, crossing as much distance as she could before her brother caught up with her.  The walk was soothing, although she could feel her mind churning away in the background.  She refused to make any plans today, though.  She wouldn’t even think about what to say to her brother until she met him. 
Morganzer walked on and on and enjoyed the walking, which was mostly slightly downhill and on a well worn trail, once the shelled path ran out.  She didn't bother to put out the torch, enjoying the pale, dancing shapes it made, until she happened to look up and see her brother approaching in the distance. 
She started to wave, but his scowl stopped her.  Had he scowled like this when she had been scrying him?  She guessed that he had.  Odd that it hadn't felt important then.  Now it pulled at her stomach.  Another movement pulled her eye and she was a little surprised to see Lillibell walking along behind her brother.  Oh, well. They had said that someone else would be coming and Lillibell would be easier to deal with than any other aunt she knew.  Except for maybe not being able to keep up. . . and maybe dying.
She stomped out the torch and sat down to wait.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning 25: Worldshore

How do you describe magic to someone who can’t perceive it?  Narnemvar is awash in magic.  He’s floating in it with no connection to the material world.

That isn’t true, of course.  His body is quite material and it’s keeping him connected to the material world just fine.  He trusts it to do so.  He’s never once in his life taken the precautions that other wizards insist on.  He’s never connected his mind to the material world directly, never tethered his awareness deliberately to any physical object or image.

His mind is connected to his body and his body exists in the world.  It’s always been a connection that he trusted completely, implicitly, without consideration. 

His masters never knew, of course.  You tell the masters what they want to hear.  They get nervous otherwise.  The few companion magickers who realized that Narnemvar worked untethered would, at this point, start expecting him to realize in horror the error of his ways. 

They would be disappointed.  Narnemvar has shifted his perception so completely into the spectrum of magic that he cannot feel his body at all.  Yet he’s used his connection to it so many times that he assumes the connection is true.  He assumes that he is aware of his body on some deep and primal level.  It’s a casual assumption.  No other wizard would make it.  It is accurate, though.  If he can ever shift his mind from thoughts of the magic that surrounds him, he will be able to return to the world. 

The magic is so strong, though.  He’s never seen so much in one place.  It’s fascinating and frightening. 

How to describe the magic?  Ignore the theoretical constructs of Guildhouse lecturers and the material philosophers of the princely courts.  They are interesting and entertaining, but Narnemvar has never been able to sit through one of their explanations without laughing.  Not to be rude, although he very frequently is, but because he can’t imagine the things they describe having any connection with the things that he feels when he’s working magic.

Some of the lectures bore him.  Others are such shows that he wants to be in front, doing the tricks.  He’s a terrible showoff.  Some of the theories are true.  Don’t think that Narnemvar necessarily knows what he’s doing.  He’s a natural.  He can do things that no one else can, but he really can’t explain what he’s doing.

Right now he experiences the magic something like this.  There’s a curse attached to Shortbread.  It’s like a tangle of thin, rusty tubes fraying out from something like a loose cable and entering his body, mostly into his torso - into his chest more than into his back, into his back more than into his sides - with a few straggling out to enter him just randomly, here and there.

There’s one strand entering his head just above his supercilious left eyebrow.  Narnemvar has trouble not giggling if he lets himself see that. 

The tubes are ragged and small, but solidly made.  They’d be difficult to break.  He’d probably damage Shortbread while damaging the tubes. 

The tubes are held in place also by strands of fear, like something between cloth and jelly.  Narnemvar experiences the fear as something like thick snot:  warm in places, cool in places, moist in places, dry in places.  The fear should be easy to break, but you had to experience it when you touched it, which was very distracting.

That was why he had followed the fear, followed the curse to it’s source.  It had seemed like the obvious next step.  Spell conduit could be broken, but may cause damage to victim:  go to next step.  Spell connection could be broken, but may cause damage to rescuer:  go to next step. 

Most curses were powered by what felt like crystals of intent.  Sometimes ill health, or the echoes of ill health, were gathered into a crystal of intent, sometimes the crystal was constructed to radiate ill health.  They were usually small and dense, however they were made.

This curse was powered by what felt like a vast blob of throbbing puss.  It was huge and fever-hot.  The little conduits didn’t pierce the blob.  They probably couldn’t.  They were held in place by webs of fear and were only picking up as much ill health as the blob radiated at that one small spot. 

The fear was crusting and cracking from the radiating ill. It wouldn’t hold for long – a few days, maybe.  Without the source, the curse would curl in on itself and slowly wither away.  It might be dangerous to leave it there.  It might pick up and transmit any ill health radiated from any nearby magic source.  Best to remove it once it was tightly curled enough.  Stay somewhere magically neutral for a few weeks, spend a few days teasing the ball out of the servant, and we were home free.

But that was for the future.  It was a good thing that Narnemvar had straightened and crimped off the tubes before following them.  The magic of the conduits and the magic of the connection were weakening the boundary of the pocket of puss.  (Possibly the magic of someone seeking out the source contributed, but Narnemvar wouldn’t let himself think of that.  He had a confirmed standard operating practice of not noticing his contribution to the messes that happened around him.)  The blob was bulging, following the path of the curse like an extruding intestine.  Narnemvar was in that intestine.  It was not a good place to be.

Narnemvar ignored the ill, as it steamed into him.  He concentrated on twisting off the intestine near the blob end.  When he finally got it twisted firmly enough that no more came through, he concentrated on the feel of the boundary.  He didn’t think in theories or in types of spell.  He simply felt the fabric of it.  Fabric was the right word.  This containment was fibrous, reinforced.  He set about sealing the containment around his twists.

Narnemvar thought of all the twisting, entwining things he knew.  He thought of spells and threads and ropes and tree roots.  He held a firm image in his mind of the shape of the blob and the bulge and the twist that connected them.  He held a firm image in his mind of the sealed blob and bulge that was the result that he wanted.  He held a firm image in his mind of all of the twining things he knew, first one after the other and then in combination.  He stacked them.  He wove them.  He remembered watching a woman darning socks.  He remembered a sailor splicing rope.  He remembered watching Bess reach out and spell the scattered, hidden mycelium of a mushroom patch into fruiting into a ring of tasty mushrooms.  He remembered Mr. Conehead using the pattern of the growth of nearby ivy to weave a Notsee onto the door of a rented cottage.

The imaging went on for hours.  Another wizard might have gotten nervous, when it took so long, with no answer yet in sight.  Another wizard might have panicked at the thought of staying in the middle of such a dangerous emanation with no backup to pull him out if he tired.  Narnemvar never wasted a thought on worry.  The magic was too absorbing.  He went on and on, trying every possibility.  He started from the blob end.  He started from the bulge end.  He started from the twist in the middle.  That felt best.

After a time, he decided that no combination of things would work all at once and began thinking of things to do in series.  Once at a philosophical presentation on decision-making, the philosopher had talked about rock climbing.  The gist was that you could spend forever planning how to climb a particular stretch, or you could decide and get going.  Once you were committed, you had to find a way to keep going without killing yourself.  Once you were committed, you got creative in ways that you never would if you were still back on the ground, looking up and planning.

Narnemvar remembered that because he agreed with it so thoroughly.  Let’s see.  Rope-splice the middle until it’s solid and nothing can get through.  Then darn the reinforcing into both bulging ends.  Use the mushroom spell, sort of, to pull the mass from the center twist into a patch on both sides.  Have to do both at once, that’s a mirror spell.  Maybe a twining of Notsee so that the puss couldn’t find any minute weaknesses in the patch.  And if something unexpected comes up – get creative.  Now go.

And hours of consideration came down to a series of spells that were installed in a matter of four minutes.  The twist sent off bulges of its own as it was spliced, but a series of spider spells encased them and plastered them back to the main mass.  The darning spell wrinkled and puckered and required an ironing spell to keep flat enough to absorb all of the splicing.  The mushroom spell required a banishing in the middle, about halfway through, to get the strongly spliced mass to let go.  And the Notsees had to be installed on both sides of each patch.  He overlaid the whole thing with a layer of silkworm cocoon.  He placed threads of personal mark on both the blob and the bulge and, instead of worrying how to get disentangled from the whole mess, simply let himself pass out, assuming he’d slide back into his body.  He woke to the feel of a bucket of sea water being thrown onto his face.

The cold and the salt were a shock.  He was too weak to do more than gasp and sputter.  Lavvi turned him onto his side and he coughed his mouth and nose clear. 

“How long?” he croaked.

“About five hours.  We thought you’d want to know.”

“Right.  Give me a few minutes for my eyes to focus and then we’d better go.  I crimped the curse a bit, so it shouldn’t leak ill nearly so fast.”

“That’s good.”

Narnemvar curled into a more comfortable position and looked at his feet.  He waited for the sight of his foot to make some kind of recognizable sense.  He wiggled his toes to draw his eye.  .   .   .  He wiggled his toes.

He followed his ankle up from his foot to his knee.



“What happened to my clothes?”

Nineteenth Beginning 24: Worldshore

When the message had come Topside, Lillibell had said she’d go get the boy.  Anyone with a bowl could see where he was.  It would be half a days walk, but she’d be there by nightfall.  He could lead them both back.  She should have known that the other aunts wouldn’t let it be that simple.  Everyone wanted to Look into it.  Someone had sent word ahead (which was a tricky thing to do with a bowl) and the boy was already penned, with his knife out.

“Did you think this through?” she asked the others.  “Or did you just Look?”

When that got no answer besides a smug look that said that Looking was better than thinking: “Did you look to the trail ahead?  Did you look to his sister needing his cooperation as she traveled?  Did you look to the prophecy?

Or did you just look to the end of the day?  To how easily and quickly you could slip him out of the valley?”

The smugness abated, but did not clear.

“She said that the men would be proud.  That means he must go back to the bath house.”

“The men are of no consequence.”  One mouth said it, but many minds believed it.

“The boy is of great consequence,” said Lillibell.  “And you are lying to yourselves if you think that the men are of no consequence.  We’re dancing on the edge of a knife.  It’s stupid to say that the knife is of no consequence. 

Now get out your bowls and this time ask how you can support her Vision the best.  None of you are the two-scry, no matter how good you think you are.  She might be.

Go on.  Get to it.”

Sullen faces got to it.  Stiff bodies went to the pen.  Lillibell went along.

“Put the knife away and bring the cub,” the sullen faces told the boy in the dark pen.

“Why should I?”

“Because if you don’t, “ said Lillibell, sighing, “you will die.  Your sister will die.  I will die.  .  .”  a hand gesture, barely seen in the dark, brought her up short.  It must be something they’d seen.  Lillibell stopped.  Irritating as most scryers were, these had been given a specific starting point and probably had a pretty good idea of how the near future was going to unravel.  She’d go along.

“You will travel to the girl’s house, to meet your sister.  She will decide about the cub.”  The voice in the night was ponderous, but probably right.  If little Fern was the one to save the cub, in his eyes, he’d cooperate with her a little better.  It made sense. 

That was something that scryers didn’t always bother to ask when they were Looking, whether something made sense.  It was something that a weak scryer learned well.  If you put garbage into the bowl, you got garbage out.  It didn’t matter how sightful you were or how many times you repeated for quality control.  A bad starting premise gave you bad results every time.

“You can lead me back.  The cub will be safe as we go along.  Where did you get it?”  Lillibell lapsed into genial friendliness out of habit.

“It’s not a cub.  It’s a puppy.”

“Were did you get the puppy, then?”

“Drift side.  Upslope.”

He sounded like he wanted to say a lot more but could only bite off a bit at a time.  Lillibell waited.

“It’s different from the others.  It came out to me.”

“Ah.  It loves you.”

Daffak hugged his shirt, which had a lump in the front.  He looked into the dark for sarcasm, but half of him really didn’t expect it from Lillibell.  He wished she wasn’t here.  The others he could fight.  They were wrong and stupid besides.  But Lillibell was reasonable and friendly.  It was hard to be mad at her.

“I’m not giving her up.”

“We’ll let the men decide that.”

Daffak blinked.  Aunts never let men decide anything.

“We’re going to tell the men a story.  Your sister will tell you about it.  If your Father approves, you and your sister will go off and be safe for awhile.

Mind you, it doesn’t stay safe for long.  Something big is happening.  The aunts can’t see exactly what it is, but it’s dangerous.  They think that the problem with you and your sister is clouding their sight and that as soon as you’re gone, they’ll be able to get on with puzzling the problem away.

But I think it’s more likely that we’ll be walking right into it.”


“I’m going, too, somehow.  I’ll die if I stay.  Besides, someone has to keep you two from arguing.”

Daffak made a sour face.  Lillibell couldn’t see it, but knew it had to be there.

“No, I don’t think it’s likely, either.  Let’s get some torches.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning 23: Worldshore

Narnemvar didn’t scream when he toppled over.  His silence was almost more frightening.  His face was wide with fear and concentration.

“Should we wake him, sir?” Satbada asked.  Not the least shade of the tone of his voice betrayed any thought for his own safety, if they stopped walking too soon.

Postlavanderon knelt beside his friend, who had bent at the knees suddenly and laid back on the trail.  He looked at his eyes, which were round and fixed on something else.  Beyond a shallow breathing, his fingertips were the only part of him moving.  They seemed to be feeling the fabric of the air.

“Narnemvar,” Lavvi called, softly, “are you all right?  Should we do anything to help you?”

Narnemvar’s lips moved slightly, aimlessly.  There was a sharp smell.  Lavvi watched his eyes, but they showed less fear than it had at first, not more.  Perhaps is was the severe concentration that had caused his friend to release his bladder.

“Are we near enough to the sea to allow us to fetch water?” Lavvi asked.

“I believe so, sir.  There was a cross trail awhile back that was going the right direction.”

“Back?”  Concern about his safety laced through that single word.

“I believe I’ll be all right.  I’ll be coming back in the right direction.  And it’s a weak curse.  In addition, I believe he should take a break from studying.  He needs to recover himself.”

“You’re right, of course.  I’ll stay with him.”

Satbada unpacked two folded leather buckets from the backpack he carried.  He trotted back the way they had come.  Postlavanderon removed a flask from his belt and a handkerchief from his sleeve.  He poured water on the cloth and pressed it against his friend’s cheek, then his forehead, then his other cheek. 

Narnemvar’s eyes blinked.  He started, slightly, once, twice.  His arms moved slowly, his fingers still making the feeling motion.  After a few slow minutes, be began to whisper.

“It’s big.  .  .  so big!”

Postlavanderon poured some more water on the cloth.  “I thought it was a small curse?”

“The curse is small, but the caster was so weak.  He used his fear to tap into . . . oh, it’s such a large store of ill-will, or ill-health.  More than ill-health.  So big.  Must twist off . . . bit. . . have. . . must drain away.  Can’t let it through.  Can’t send it back to the magic.  So big.  Where did this come from?”

“One thing at a time, friend.”  The cloth was once again against Narnemvar’s face.  “You can trace where it came from later.  The only thing to think of now is how to pull back away from it without hurting yourself.

It would also be nice if you didn’t hurt Shortbread.”

“No.  He’s safe.  I twisted it off behind me.  It can’t get through.  It’s just me.  I’ll be fine.  It’s just so big.  Tell me I can do a lot of thinking about it later.”

“You don’t need to think about it now.  It isn’t safe to just leave something like that laying around were weak mages can tap it.  I want you to find out what it is, just not now.  My father will want to find out what it is, but he can have other mages help you and it can happen later.  Is that what you need?”

“That’s good.  Yes.  I only have a little of it and it’s more than I’ve ever held before.  How was this collected?  I’m afraid of the things I’m thinking when I think of . . . so big.”

“We’ll figure out how it was collected.  If it was done illegally, more than my father will want it’s makers spoken to.”

“Speak to them.  Yes.  Tell them not to be bad.  Lavvi?”


“I think you’re right to say they.  I think it was many mages.  I think there were a lot of people killed.  I’m afraid.  If they did it on purpose, I don’t think they’re the kind of people who should be using magic.”

“Yes.  We’ll find them.  We’ll think of that.  Only we don’t have to do it now.  It’s too big to loose track of, right?”


“So you can let go of it and find it again with no problem.  Right?”


“So all you need to think about is letting go, of getting yourself away from it safely.  Can you do that?  Can you only think about getting away safely?”

“Will you remind me of . . . of the rest?”

“Of course.  I’ll remember for you.  You’ll probably remember, too, but I’ll remember.  Satbada has gone to get some sea water to wash you off with.”

“Sea water?”

“I shouldn’t have said that.  There’s nothing you need to think of, here.  We have everything under control.  You just wiggle out of that bad magic.”

“Wiggle.”  Narnemvar giggled.  “Wiggle.  Wiggle out.  It’s big, but I’m slippery.  I can get out of anything.”

“Yes, you can.”

Narnemvar laid back, arms stiffly held, fingers twitching, eyes wide and staring upward.  “I’m afraid.”

“The fear won’t stop you, my friend.  Rest easy on that.”

Narnemvar’s reply was the sound of a balloon with a slow leak.

This was not good.  Postlavanderon was at least five days walk from anything like his sphere of influence.  They were in village country.  Hut country.  They were on the finger.  And the most powerful mage that anyone had seen for decades was afraid.  This was definitely not good.