Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nineteenth Beginning - that's all folks (Worldshore) misc. notes

I’m going to pause for a few minutes and set down the look of the people and places in this story.  I’ll sort them into the narrative later.  Right now the plot is ticking along well relying mostly on the voices.  But the other stuff needs to be firmly in my head, to keep me consistent and, to be honest, to let me salt comments into the manuscript as I write along. 

So.  Obviously the main character is Morganzer, also named Ferntickle.  She’s fifteen and hates being fifteen.  She wants to be in charge or at least thinks she does.  That’s a little patronizing.  She definitely wants to be in charge and always will.  It’s just a part of her personality.  She will always perceive others as being off track and needing guidance at the very least and a good shaking followed my someone more competent (only coincidentally her – it’s not like she want all this work) taking over, just to keep things right.  Maybe she’ll mellow.  The mellowing will only be in action, though, she’ll always have the urge to take over.

Morganzer isn’t used to the idea of having two names.  She perceives her names as being in conflict.  She’s going to get a little shock when she finds how others view naming.  She’s going to get more than a little shock when she leaves her valley, which is isolated and populated by folks who don’t see the world the way most folks do.  That’s putting it mildly.  She’s been raised by scryers, with can be hard on a kid. 

Morganzer thinks she’s gotten all her height because she’s thin and gawky and as tall as most of the grown women around her.  She’s leaving out the genetic contribution of her father, though, mostly because the aunts she’s been raised by consider the nemen to be a temporary difficulty, which is true only in the realm of not wanting to think about that.

The nemen don’t see the women of Topside as relatives either, and the mutual denial is very supportive, in its way.  The Skeld, as they call themselves (nemen is a slighting term meaning not really men, or at least not really our men) are marauders pushing out of their old territory, taking advantage of a warming of the world.  They have wives and families back home.  Real ones.  They are deliberately gruff and uncommunicative with the aunts, enforcing a distance between them.  Any show of affection would be frowned upon, on both sides. 

Morganzer therefore doesn’t know how significant it is that a few of the nemen have had more than one child by the same woman or how significant it is that her father not only produced three full siblings, but checked in on them after her mother died.  She assumes that he’s of no consequence to her personally and that he assumes the same of her.

She’s going to be frowning a lot over the stories, for which I apologize.  I won’t say that it’s not that she’s that grumpy, because at this stage of her life, she is.  And she will have to work not to fall back into grumpy all her life.  But she’s going to be going through some big adjustments, or at least she’s going to feel the pull to adjust to a lot of things, and it’s hard for someone who knows it all to adjust to things she didn’t know about at all.  Like, in Morganzer’s case, the rest of the world.

She has a brother, who irritates her, and a sister that she doesn’t bother thinking of at all.  The brother does not scry, at least not in a normal way.  Morganzer does.  She scries very well.  She has built her sense of worth around it, believing that if you knew scrying you knew everything and everyone had to listen to you. 

But back to her brother.  Daffak is thirteen and getting pudgy before a growth spurt.  He doesn’t know that, though, and is afraid he’s getting soft.  He’s also worried about how tall he’ll end up being.  Unlike Morganzer, he’s noticed the visiting men a lot and has made a sort of gruff contact with his father.  He wants more contact, though, and is starting to do increasingly rash things to get attention from the men.  He has especially noticed that the Skeld men are taller than his folk, even taking the fact that most of his folk are women into account.  He’s noticed that the older boys who were half Skeld looked shorter than the few Skeld boys he’s seen.  (This is skewed more than he knows by the fact that only large Skeld boys are allowed to boat out.)

I’ve wandered away from the physical description of Morganzer.  I’ll add Daffak in, to make up time.  The Skeld tend to very fine hair with little or no curl in it.  Their women deal with that in various ways, but the men – half of whom go male-pattern bald by fifty – either tie back their hair in a braid or cut it very short.  They tend not to bother braiding hair that’s gotten too wispy.  Their hair comes in various light shades with maybe one person in ten showing red.

The Topsiders were a moderately diverse bunch at one time, but tend to the darkish and the wavy or curly, with no red.  Mixed children tend to look mostly Topside, with maybe less curl and a lighter hue.  Lychnis, Morganzer’s sister, is an exception.  Her hair is a definite light red and it kept the full curl, which makes it striking to both groups.  The aunts have kept it pulled back and covered, as a general precaution.  But she’s eleven, now, and wants to let it loose, like her agemates.  She’s not going to do much in this story.  She’ll be getting on with her life at home.  She’ll get more attention from her father, since he’ll be missing the other two and won’t be able to speak about it to anyone.

Morganzer and Daffak have dark, umberish hair.  His is thicker than hers.  It would show a wave if cut short, but they both wear it long, so neither knows this.  Although dark, their hair tends to sun bleach easily, leaving the top layer a brickish color, with dark strands peaking through.  The bleached layer is weaker than the underlayer, and breaks off more easily.  So for the last few inches, their hair is dark. 

Daffak’s hair is longer than Morganzer’s, which irritates her a bit.  Hers, being lighter, tends to let shortened tendrils loose from her braids to float about.  When in deep scrying, they stand out from her head.  He wears a single braid, like the nemen.  She wears two and tucks them around each other at the base of her neck.

Both Daffak and Morganzer have very pale skin.  If Lychnis gets too much sun, she freckles exactly the way that their father thought Morganzer would.  Morganzer hasn’t really noticed, but their father is a carpenter, rather than a raider.  Daffak knows, though, and has started trying to carve the dead branches of the valley scrub. 

All the Topsiders wear felt clothing made from the hair of the goats they raise.  The goats also produce milk.  There are a few small flocks of tough little banty chickens.  They lay barely enough eggs to keep their population up enough to be harvestable, so almost no one eats their eggs. 

People do eat sea bird eggs, though, especially in season.  The children are encouraged to trap or otherwise kill the local rabbits and weasels.  Slings are popular weapons for doing this.  There are berry bushes.  Around the edge of the warm, there are rose bushes.  The roses have adapted well enough to the cold to push out beyond the warm.  Rose hip tea is popular with the aunts, who know that it prevents scurvy.  Roses are embroidered on the edges of the aunts’ felt coats.

Daffak is an extrovert, wanting to be connected to people more than most scryers care to be.  Being around introverts is starting to wear on him.  He perceives it as being around women, though.  That will change later.

Oh, the nemen have gotten ahold of cotton toweling and the Topsiders use the old towels in various ways, most notably as carriers and parts of clothing.  Linen, hemp, and wool are the fabrics produced by the worldshore.  There’s a seaweed that can make a rough strapping or tarp material, too. 

How many Topsiders are there?  That’s a good question.  The Skeld have inspected, and they pretend that they know, but all the Topsiders looked alike to them at the time, and everyone kept coming and going.  It’s a long little finger of a valley.  There are four good-sized caves currently being used to house goats and their tenders.  Maybe a few other folks, too.  I mean, the smell of the goats keeps everyone away, so it would be a good place to stash things.  And people. 

There were eighteen families with the wanderer, when they came to Topside.  It was called Topside even then, because it couldn’t be seen from the sea and you had to climb up the cliffs at exactly the right place to reach it.  The followers came in a masted ship and held climbing contests each day of the trip.  The rope ladders had been made before the trip and were given to the best climbers to let down for everyone else.  That’s the advantage of a boat load of scryers.  There was also a pulley for hauling gear, but that’s been broken, burned, or hidden away.  No one Topside knows where at the moment.

Lillibell has medium to dark ash blonde hair.  She’s starting to go grey, which isn’t really noticeable against the ash cast of her hair.  She’ll be well into grey before anyone really notes it.  It’s also starting to get a bit curly in patches.  She’s the only person Topside who cuts her hair into bangs, although no one Topside uses that word.  It’s not your usual set of bangs, but hugs the edges of her eyebrows and comes down her cheeks, curving in slightly.  She’s also hacked off hunks on each side at about chin height.  It’s a cut that she does herself with a knife and no mirror.  It’s for convenience.  The rest she braids back out of the way.  Sometime one braid, sometimes two.  With the bangs, her jaw doesn’t look as square as it otherwise would.  Not that her appearance is the reason for the cut.  The cut is completely functional.

She’s a naturally happy person, which is just as well.  She’s medium height and is starting to get a bit haunchy as her knees go.  Her digestion is also not what it should be for a woman of her age.  And they’ve used spells to wither her womb, because it was acting up so bad.

She used to wander all over the valley, collecting materials for other people to make baskets from.  Collecting and processing the materials takes about half the time of making a basket, so a lot of craftier folk were happy to let her collect for them.  Now she mostly stays near the bath house and is getting more and more clever with the materials near there.

Lillibell has become more sedentary since the knees began to pain her.  She makes paper and ink.  She’s gotten good at dying the felt, even developing a fast bright blue.  She dyes and uses embroidery thread.  She’s found a number of uses for the seaweeds that grow at the base of their cliff.  Most of the bowls and plates Topside are made of seal or walrus leather.  Spoons and combs are carved from ivory or horn.  She’s gotten good at making things with all of those materials.  There is actually a decent bank of metal that the followers brought with them, but it was either taken Downside or to Farside, to keep it from the nemen.  So she’s never worked with metal. 

Lillibell has seen her own death while scrying more times that anyone else in Topside history.  Although she doesn’t know it, there’s a book on all of the ways that she could have died.  Other women have taken over the task of watching her future and she’s relieved that they have.  There’s something unsettling with watching yourself die, especially when someone else is killing you.  Even if you avoid it, you can never talk to that person the same way ever again. 

Lillibell is going to die if she doesn’t get out of the valley with Daffak and Morganzer.  She’s also going to die if she goes.  But it’s a later death and it won’t be caused by someone she knows.

  Morganzer’s face is a little thin and her forehead rounds out a bit.  Daffak’s face is baby-cheek round with a slightly flattened nose.  He’s hoping to grow out of that.  His hair forms a widow’s peak.  His two middle fingers are exactly the same length – just like his father.  Lillibell’s face is a little squarish of jaw, with a high forehead and a nose that has kind of a bump on the end. 

There’s one stream a summer day’s walk from the valley that has a clay bottom.  One or two expeditions are made there each year.  The timing has to be right.  The nemen know nothing about it and the clay is taken Downside for processing and use.  It’s not very good clay, but it makes a change. 

Let’s say that the eighteen families that came each had four members.  That’s 72 people.  Let’s say that scrying suppresses ovulation, so that the population snuck up to 120 and then stayed about there.  Let’s say that half of the population went to Farside.  That’s 60 left.  Then say that the oldest fifty went Downside.  That’s an original dozen Downside and 48 Topside, a third of which are children.  So sixteen children of various ages.

The valley can support 120, though.  And the nemen are supplying added children.  Let’s say the old women live longer if they’re Downside and not doing farm work or gathering in the cold.  So double the children and double the Downsiders, as they build up.  That’s nearly 30 Downside and about the same number of children.  Say 17 – 19 is the age of majority.  That’s 16 years spread among the children, or about two children of any given age.  They’d tend to clump a little. 

Babies stay with their mothers, who stay near the baths, working as support crew.  Girls aren’t allowed to work the baths unless too young to be of interest or old enough to bear safely.  The baths are made of cedar and are well made.  The story is that Topside was originally made for a prince to visit.  Hot baths near the cold snow being poetic and coincidentally far from his counselors’ prying eyes.  Then the prince died and the ships just stopped coming.  There had only been a few men at the baths and for some reason they produced few sons.  The aunts, minus their oldest, had welcomed the nemen as fathers to their children.  In exchange for leaving children, they would operate the baths for them as long as the machinery held out.  It was a pity that a rock collapse had blocked off access to the main machinery.  But it was built on a natural hot spring, as you could tell by the valley. 

Lets talk cardinal points for a bit.  Let’s call the coldest reach of the Worldshore north.  Let’s call the warmest reach south.  Then the sun will come up over a massive mountain range each morning, at least for most of the shore.  There will be a lovely sunset way out into the western ocean – just called the Ocean at the end of every day.  Things are arranged so that up Topside, the winter days are short and the summer ones are long.  Most of the really educated folks everywhere (even on the continent) know that the world is round.  It doesn’t get pondered much, Topside, but Downside has a library with the requisite explanations.  It’s actually not a bad little library, if you overlook the spottiness.  Eighteen families.  Eighteen views of what was important.  Half of them didn’t bring books at all, beyond ledgers and journals, and they were expecting to fill those in. 

So we have a valley up on a high cliff.  I’m trying not to use the word fjord, but I may not be able to get around it.  There’s a finger of a fjord-bump jutting into the ocean, surrounded on most sides by towering, jagged islands.  Basically broken fjord leavings.  They’re scenic and rugged and awe-inspiring, unless you view landscapes where it’s difficult for people to get around and impossible for them to live as broken debris, terrifying, perhaps, but as ugly as trash due to its uselessness.  The majority of the folk on the Worldshore have a tendency to judge landscapes in that way.  It’s a definite: “so what can you do for me” attitude.  It’s also not awe-inspiring if you were born there and have looked at it since long before your brain knew how to make images out of all that electric mess that your eyes were shoving at it. 

Daisy managed awe.  Lychnis has toyed around the edges of the feeling and might uncover it lurking behind her liver somewhere, if she persists in examining her perceptions.  Morganzer and Daffak ignore it the way fish ignore water.  That is, they’re very aware of it, but not as a separate thing, to be considered for itself.  They’re constantly monitoring it for cues to how it’s going to affect them. 

The fjord-bump runs almost exactly from it’s attachment to the mountains in the northeast to its tip in the Ocean, southwest.  There’s only one place where a boat can be anchored – an area where a great chunk has fallen away to make a concavity.  Rope ladders are dropped from overhead.  Once you climb them, you have to walk along the spine of the fjord-bump until just after it meets the main mountain.  Then you climb up over the nearest peak and drop down into a valley.  The valley also runs roughly northeast to southwest, but it slices a bit to the east.  The bath house is situated at the front of the valley, in a little flat grassy area.  Behind it, on either side, are the prince house and the servant house.

These days toddlers and their keepers live in the servant house and the prince house is kept for the nemen and whichever women are asking for children.  Morganzer actually thinks that the women pick when and maybe who.  We’re going to shock her a little before we let her get out of the valley.  But don’t worry, it’ll mostly be in a scrying bowl. 

There are four caves, as I believe I’ve mentioned.  Three are at the eastern end of the valley.  Locals refer to the left and right sides of the valley.  This convention presumes that you’re at the bath house and looking northeast.  The left side of the valley is shielded from the wind by the valley sides, which are shear for most of its length.  That side also gets called the lee side, therefore.  The other side has less steep sides and tends to collect snow drift in the winter, so it’s also called the drift side.  The drift side gets a bit more sun, because the sides are sloped back and don’t block it much. 

There’s one cave in the lee side, about halfway down the valley.  It’s the biggest one and the one that houses the most people and the fewest goats.  It’s been rebuilt the most, or at least it looks like it has.

The other three caves are down at the east end on the drift side.  To get out of the valley you have to start climbing up the mountain on the drift side before you get to the first cave.  You go up and up, heading loosely northeast and keeping to the spine until it reaches another spine.  You turn to the right, then, passing over the new spine and onto a bigger mountain.  You won’t be able to climb up to the spine of that one.  It’s always ice and always unsteady.  Instead, you pass along the side of the spine-holder until you reach a third spine.  You turn right and travel down that one.  About a third of the way down it, there will be a steep slope dropping off to the left.  If you can travel down it, bearing slightly right as you travel, you’ll reach another valley.  It will be rocky and round and no use for farming, but it will have a harbor that you can land a boat in. 

Getting there can be a bitch, though.  

Daisy is taller than most Topside women and has pale, straight hair.  Her face is thin and her eyes are a muddy mix of olive green and brown.  Her smile looks almost folded, the edges going up sharply and suddenly when she’s amused or had discovered something.

Mackah, Kholack, and Hallacha all look related, almost like they’re three ages of the same woman.  The face is roundish and the cheeks are flattish toward the front, giving a slightly maskish appearance.  Their hair is a thick, wavy brown and would have had slightly reddish highlights if they were still going above ground.

They are all going grey, with Hallacha being mostly grey, Mackah being mostly brown, and Kholack being in the middle.  Their hands and wrists are very wrinkled and so is the front of their necks, where they join their chests.  Their faces are much less wrinkled, although each has a typical expression that is reinforced by etching.  Kholack had her smirk.  Hallacha frowned, disapprovingly, and Mackah squinted as if perplexed or concentrating.

Narnemvar, on the other end of the world, is a tall man who used to be slim and graceful.  He’s still fairly light on his feet, although he’s developed a small belly.  He wears velvet because he likes the feel and his few clothes are well made.  He wears them until they wear out, seeming not to notice their decline until multiple holes bring themselves to his notice.

This hair is a medium brown and curly.  It’s cut in two layers, which used to be stylish and still is in some areas.  He wears no jewelery because it itches when he does magic.  He wears buckles on his boots to make up for it.  He looks like the sort who would wear a hat to have something to gesture expansively with, but he doesn’t have one at the moment.  His eyes are deeply brown.  He has an easy laugh.  He bores easily.

Postlavanderon is slim and brown and well made.  He is a practiced dancer and fencer.  Both he and Narnemvar have more experience brawling than a courtier is supposed to admit to.  He’s in his late twenties. 

Satbada is in his early twenties, but both of the men he is traveling with assume he is older, because of the way he dresses and because of his stiff propriety.  He is proud to be a servant and proud of being a good servant.  He exercises while the others are sleeping and is better trained at fighting than they know. 

1 - Trigger level - cannot properly perceive any component of active magic, but can trigger trap magic
2 - Active Perception level - can perceive active magic - this includes being able to hear the words of cast spells, being able to see the gestures made in casting, being able to lohode the movement of the spell, and feeling other referred physical sensations caused by the movement
3 - Static Perception level - can perceive trap or other static magic
4 - Near Sympathy level - also called the Finding or Scan level - able to call to a well known object, person, or material and perceive it if hidden nearby.  Finders and Scanners must be in motion and sense their target as they pass it. 
5 - Far Sympathy level - also called the Dowsing level - Dowsers can scan at a greater distance and can sense their target while still.  Four guilds determine whether a person can use the title Dowser.
6 - Connection level - also called by many other names - can pull different types of magic and connect them, thus casting spells and inserting magic into charms and other physical or locational trap configurations
7 - Calling level - also called the Weaving level - can pull raw or loosely typed magic from non-point sources and differentiate it into typed magic

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