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> Seven Reimagined, A new view of an old story
Grits
post Jan 1 2019, 01:55 PM
Post #101


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I am taking my time savoring this new Seven. (And I just reached Chapter 7.) I very much think that Aela and Loria have open-ended series potential. It’s exciting to see them and the new crew members (Hrafn! Pherienon!!) in their own world. Thank you very much for including the maps, pictures, and illustrations. It’s interesting to see how inspiration comes together to form an original world.

What strikes me immediately even in the heat of battle is how vivid and natural magic is to Aela. I loved seeing the end of the cult leader from afar through Aela’s magic confirmed by the warriors’ cheers!

The conflict with the mercenaries after the battle fills out Aela’s world very well. A lot can be inferred from what is said and how she reacts.

The Teodon descriptions work well. I found myself imagining them as completely new mortals instead of picturing something familiar. Yikes, the making of a cannibal bandit was fascinating, and convincing. Now that they need to consume flesh, they have no other life to consider deserting for.

Ugh, student loans. Easy to relate to that.

Whoop, Persephone!! biggrin.gif She is impressive and mysterious from the first sighting. Goodness, Dhasan and Loria play off each other so well. I love seeing this group assemble!

The description of Ravenwheel was perfect. I love this story.






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SubRosa
post Jan 5 2019, 05:45 PM
Post #102


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



Acadian: Loria's florid introduction was a lot of fun to write. And once again it gave me the opportunity to spend a few moments on each of the seven. It is not easy juggling so many characters.


haute ecole rider: I did want Venca's own speech to come across with that feeling of hope as well. He is going to build them up, physically and mentally, starting with that.


Grits: It has been a lot of fun to create my own world, and write in it instead of Bethesda's. Especially when it comes to writing magic, how it works, and how it is perceived by those who use it.

The new crew has been a lot of fun to write. I have tried to make it as multi-cultural as possible, and have representatives of all the major races/societies. Sadly, to represent every one would bring the group up to 10 or 12 members, just too many main characters to keep track of. I did have a Guzuk orc and Aymaran human characters fleshed out, but I had to put them on the back-burner due to the sheer size of the group. But maybe we will see them someday.


Chapter 12.3

After the excitement in the square, Ranazu offered to host them in his home. It was a simple affair, like all the houses in the village. But before they could even enter the upraised dwelling, Aela learned what those bowls on the porches were for. They contained water, and all who meant to enter a home were obliged to take off their shoes or boots and wash their feet. They then went barefoot within.

Aela found it to be a simple, yet elegant solution to living in an environment where mud and dirt were inescapable. The villagers might have to work in the grime all day long, but they did not take it into their houses with them. Their homes were a refuge from the muck of everyday farming life.

The interior of the domicile was a single large room, with large, flat stones set in the center of the upraised floor to create a hearth for cooking upon. The rest of the house revolved around that, with a sleeping area and space for storage located at the rear of the home, a place for food preparation around the hearth itself, and finally the living and dining space near the door. The tables and chairs were made of rattan. Aela noted that most of the crockery was of earthenware or bamboo, utensils were of wood, and the only metal in evidence was a single small cauldron of dented iron. Ranazu's bed was a mat of woven reeds that had been rolled up and put aside. It was kept company by a second sleeping mat that Aela noted bore a thin layer of dust atop it.

After taking some time to unload their packs and settle into the building, Aela noted that someone was missing.

"Where is Phereinon?"

Exiting the domicile, they looked about from the raised porch. It was Dhasan who saw her first.

"There," he pointed to a nearby hillside outside of the town. "In what looks like the burial ground."

"Maybe she's looking for old friends," Loria remarked dryly. Aela resisted the urge to start. It might have been a joke, but she suspected that the elf was closer to the mark than not.

They donned their footgear once more and headed to the town square. Aela left the others and went to the cemetery instead. The burial ground encroached into the tree line above the base of one of the hills adjacent to the village. Unlike cemeteries in Rase or Aulertil, here the individual graves rose in high, round mounds. These little hillocks were covered in verdant grass, but were free of weeds, flowers, or any other plant life. A single wooden post rose before each internment, painted with the names of those within in the Teodon or Rasen tongues.

The graveyard was smaller than Aela had expected, and she wondered if there might be another, larger cemetery nearby. Unless Agrigento was recently settled. She had never thought to ask any of the villagers their local history. That would have to change.

Phereinon knelt before the rows of grassy mounds, but rose to her feet as the Arvern approached. She reached down and hoisted her pack over one shoulder, and turned to face the Witch.

"I imagine the others are looking for me," she said, more a statement than a question.

"We were wondering what had happened to you," Aela replied.

"I always visit the graveyards when I come to a settlement." Phereinon briefly paused to look back over the green mounds. Then she turned to Aela. "I never know who I might find."

"Old friends?" Aela could not help but repeat Loria's quip.

"Sometimes," Phereinon said gravely, "but not today."

With that the mystery woman led Aela back into the settlement, drawing more than one stare from the farmers. Aela felt the usual flop in her stomach, until she realized that for once she was not the one being gawked at. Instead it was Phereinon - the cloaked woman with a snow-white face - who drew everyone's gaze.

They rejoined the other mercenaries at the village square. Vesia met them there, in front of the large - Rasen-style - stone building. The human villager led them into the structure through its only entrance: a pair of thick wooden doors. Within they found four gigantic copper vats that rose from the stone floor. They were taller than Aela, and tapered to long, slender pipes which bent back downward to feed into great collection pots. A raised walkway ran around the top of the vats, and Aela could see that it could be used to access hatches set within the tops of each vessel. They reminded her of alchemical alembics, only on a massive scale.

"This is where we distill the soju," Vesia explained.

The Rasen pointed to a row of metal cylinders to one side of the room. "It begins in the fermenting bins over there. We mix the rice with water and yeast and take it out into the sun to ferment. From them we take the wash and put it in the vats, where we heat it to boiling. The vapor runs up those slender pipes at the top and starts to condense. Most of it falls back down into the pot as reflux. Only the purest distillation rises all the way, goes across those horizontal pipes, and falls down into the condensers. From there it drips into the collectors as soju. We put it in those doks - brown jugs - over there and age it. Or at least we did in the old days. Now the firking raiders take it and drink it straight from the vats."

Loria whistled in appreciation. "Most impressive," the Light Elf said. "I have to admit, I was not expecting anything this refined."

"Aye, I feel thirsty already," Dhasan laughed.

"Do you run all of this?" Aela asked the Rasen woman, noting her familiarity with the process.

"I do," Vesia nodded, "with a little extra muscle-power from some of the others of course. It was my parents who started it all. You might say brewing is in my blood."

"You must be able to bring in a good deal of coin from this," Hrafngoelir observed. "Yet your people live so sparingly?"

"We have to," Vesia frowned. "The raiders took all of our valuables, even my copper cooking pots from home. All we have left is what we could hide from them. The only reason they do not take all of this is because they know we could not make the soju without it."

"Is there a way up to the roof?" Venca gazed up at the ceiling. "This is the tallest building in the village. We should get a good view from up there."

"Aye," Vesia nodded. "Follow me."

She led them up on the metal walkway that surrounded the vats and took them to one side of the building. There she ascended a ladder to a wooden trapdoor and climbed through it. Aela followed along with the others, and found herself perched on the spine of the roof. To either side of her red-glazed tiles angled down to the edge of the slanted roof. But along the peak there was a flat beam of wood that ran the length of the building, roughly three feet wide.

As Venca had thought, the perch offered a wide view of the village and its environs. The group turned this way and that to look all about. Hrafngoelir pointed to the bamboo-covered hills to the south and spoke.

"Those are going to be trouble," the northerner observed. "The bamboo will give them cover from arrows, and they can get within fifty feet of the village wall before they get into the open."

"We will have to clear it," Dhasan said.

"Perhaps we can kill two Fir Bolgs with one spell while we are at it." Venca thoughtfully rubbed his chin. "We will need spears for the villagers, and that bamboo would do nicely."

"Consider it done." Malediction appeared in Phereinon's hand, filling Aela with a sense of quiet dread. The Arvern chided herself for letting it bother her so. She was going to have to learn to build a mental callous to the weapon, even though it did feel like a curse.

"We'll need shields too." Venca said. "We could make them from rattan, or even bamboo. But I'd like something stronger. It's going to be the primary thing these people have to protect themselves."

"I wouldn't trust the wood from the banyan trees," Alcheon said. "But the durians are strong. I could start felling them and making shields."

"My axe will cut wood just as well as men," Dhasan murmured, "I will assist."

"Good," Venca nodded. "That will give us a start. Once we have those I can start training the villagers. The sooner the better. In the meanwhile we can put them to work on the defenses. Let's go down and take a look at the perimeter."

Kye Rim Graves

Rasen-style architecture

Teodon Dok

Bamboo forest


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Acadian
post Jan 5 2019, 11:43 PM
Post #103


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We continue to learn more about both the village and the Seven here. Nice interlude with Phereinon at the graveyard. And a fascinating description of the actual distillery.

‘Ranazu's bed was a mat of woven reeds that had been rolled up and put aside. It was kept company by a second sleeping mat that Aela noted bore a thin layer of dust atop it.‘ - - I love this mysterious loose end - and can take a guess that the second mat belongs to a mate perhaps slain by the raiders. . . . If we learn more about it that is nice but if not, that is how life is – full of unanswered questions.

’Aela felt the usual flop in her stomach, until she realized that for once she was not the one being gawked at.’ - - Having come to know Aela, I don’t think it gives her much comfort that folks are staring at Phereinon instead of her. At least Aela no longer has manhands to draw attention to herself. wink.gif

"Perhaps we can kill two Fir Bolgs with one spell while we are at it." - - This delightful turn of phrase on a familiar saying does a wonderful job of emphasizing Aela-lore and reminding us that ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!’

So, plowshares to swords as the work in earnest begins. Crafting weapons, shields and a (hopefully) capable militia.


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Grits
post Jan 9 2019, 07:16 PM
Post #104


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Ooo, in Chapter 8 I hope that’s the whiff of a sequel. Phereinon and the dead city and the Sluagh sound fascinating.

On the boat, Hrafngoelir’s appearance seen from the aether demonstrated how Aela sees the worlds very well. I liked Hrafn’s ritual with the rune stone. Her chat with Aela was informative and simply lovely.

I giggled when Aela asked Hrafn if she used magic to style her hair. As a fellow bearer of unruly locks, I have often looked at other women and wondered the same. happy.gif Oh, and Aela couldn’t help but start giving birth control advice! That was perfect!

QUOTE
"Everyone dies," Phereinon pointed out. "If he wishes to die with us, let him come."

"Remind me to never book you as an inspirational orator," Loria murmured.
rollinglaugh.gif

The exchange between Aela and Venca on the boat rang so true to the Aela you have shown us so far and covered a lot of ground. That was excellent! By the way, Kye Rim is one of the coolest place names I have ever heard.

I loved Loria’s quiet support as much as Aela’s hand renovations. The amount of effort and sustained concentration required (not to mention the risks) explain why she hasn’t already completed her physical changes, especially as we’ve just seen how hard it is to get a little time to herself in the aether.

Oh my gosh, Aela’s aesensing of Malediction was breathtaking. Phereinon sure knows how to end a “so, where are you from” conversation!

QUOTE
Venca sheathed the unusual sword, and took a step back from the snake. "We aren't here to kill every wild animal in the country."

Now I know we’re not in Tamriel! laugh.gif

I loved seeing the Kye Rim landscape and wildlife along the trip. By the time they got to the village, I had a clear mental picture of what life there might be like.


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Renee
post Jan 12 2019, 02:30 PM
Post #105


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QUOTE(Grits @ Jan 1 2019, 07:55 AM) *

I am taking my time savoring this new Seven. (And I just reached Chapter 7.)


Up to 12.2 myself.

QUOTE
Multi-hued birds flew through the growth or perched upon the trees, where they were kept company by lizards, serpents, and insects of all varieties. The forest was literally an explosion of color and life.


THIS is what I always want in Elder Scrolls games! Lots of smaller, non-threatening insects, birds, reptiles, etc. It's what I always envision. Skyrim was a definite improvement in this regard, but still.

The scene when they eat that revolting custard fruit made me gag! And as they stumble through the forest, I keep hoping they don't accidentally come across some trap, after it's too late. indifferent.gif

This post has been edited by Renee: Jan 12 2019, 02:30 PM
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SubRosa
post Jan 12 2019, 06:26 PM
Post #106


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Acadian: I am not sure how deeply we will get into Ranazu's history, and the reason for his abiding hatred for the raidrers. Most of it will probably be inferred.

You are right, Aela is not much more comfortable with someone else being gawked at than it being herself. Though at least she can take some comfort in the fact they were gawking simply because Phereinon looks so unique, rather than bigotry.

I do love taking a modern turn of phrase and altering it to be setting-appropriate. Like betting septims to sausages.


Grits: Phereinon and the City of the Dead is a sequel, and the beginning of what I imagine to be a globe-spanning adventure.

I likewise wish I had the magic power of hair-taming. sad.gif

What makes Aela's transformation even more difficult is that there is no one to teach her, or even any how to books. She is literally figuring this out all on her own, using just her overall knowledge of arcanism (the study of magic itself) and vitamancy. Someone who was actually trained and had practice could do it much quicker, easier, and safer. But there are no sex reassignments mages in Aela's world.

I worked to figure out how Malediction should both look physically and be felt in the aether. I did not want to fall back on the old saws of skulls and "a feeling of death". I went with the owl inscription on the blade because it is a psychopomp among Native Americans. Then I decided to go back to Aela's own experience of the death of a loved one, in her case that of a cherished pet. It is something I imagine everyone can relate to.

I am glad that all the time spent along the river is paying off. Not only with character development, but also in presenting Kye Rim as a real land. My aim was for the countryside itself to become a character in its own right.


Renee: I got a lot of my ideas for the flora and fauna from watching wildlife documentarys. Whenever I see something interesting I take notes so I do not forget to use them. The Durian trees and their stinky but delectable fruit are a real thing. They are a delicacy in south east asia. Albeit a smelly one.


Chapter 12.4

With that the mercenaries filed their way back down to the distillery floor. Once outside they were joined by Daehyun and Aecha. Vesia stayed behind, explaining that she had to start work on creating their next batch of soju. In her place the two Teodon villagers led the mercenaries to the front gate, to begin their tour of the walls.

There was not much left to look at. While the thick tree-trunks that made up most of the wall were indeed of stout construction, the ground beneath them had sagged, often leaving them pointed this way or that, creating gaps in many places. The bamboo replacement walls near the gate and a few other places were sturdy enough to prevent animals from wandering in or out, but clearly would not stop a determined attacker.

"We'll start with digging a ditch around the entire village and filling it with water," Venca said.

"That will not slow the raiders," Daehyun pointed out. "They are Teodon like us. They move through water and mud just as easily as your people do on dry land."

"Aye," Venca agreed, "but the muddy water will conceal the bamboo stakes we plant in the bed of the moat."

"Oh, he is a clever one," Dhasan murmured. "That will give them a nasty surprise indeed."

"It probably won't kill any of them," Hrafngoelir observed, "but it will slow them down, and force them to take their time through the water."

"It's going to be a lot of work, but I'd like to pull up all those timbers as well, and use the dirt we dig out of the moat to build up a rampart." Venca pointed at the heavy tree trunks that made up most of the wall. "Then we can replant the logs into a solid barrier. With a five foot deep moat, a five foot rampart, and the wall on top of that, we will have a respectable obstacle."

"I can take care of that." Aela closed her eyes, and allowed her senses to drift down into the mud beneath her feet. Almost instantly she found a gnome. While he did not truly sleep, the land spirit was as still as stone, so that Aela was tempted to imagine him dozing in the warmth of the sun's rays. She enticed him to rise up from his home in the aether and take physical form, lending him her mana to make the transition from one world to the other.

A muddy hand rose up from the earth before Aela, causing the others to leap out of the way. All except for Phereinon, who instead watched with great interest. It was a followed by a second earthen hand, and the two pulled up an equally grimy head and shoulders up from the ground. In moments a giant of soil and loose stones rose up from the earth and stood before the Witch. He looked about the group, and finally rested an expectant gaze upon Aela.

She smiled and gently patted his arm. "My friend and I can take care of the ditch and the rampart in no time at all."

She did not fail to notice Phereinon's eyes practically burning on her own. The white-haired woman had wanted her for her ability with earth spirits. Now Phereinon would see what she was truly capable of. Part of her wanted to impress the mystery woman. That same part of her always wanted to be the best she could. But another part of Aela wondered if perhaps she might be better off if the scarred woman decided against procuring her aid after all.

"That won't stop the bandits," Aecha argued. "We had those before. They just pulled the ground out from underneath us."

"They have a mage who can summon gnomes," Loria said. "But as you can see, so do we."

"If anyone can stop them, it is Aela," Dhasan agreed. "She is the finest conjurer I have ever met."

Aela tried not to blush at the compliment. Venca's words brought her back down to earth quickly enough however.

"I don't expect to stop them at the walls," the Rasen said. "They will get through."

"Then why bother?" the water priestess spoke in a placid tone, but from the slight twitch in her tail, Aela could see that Aecha was growing exasperated.

"We will force them to bring their full force to bear upon the walls," Hrafngoelir explained. "They will have to throw everything in, including their mages."

"That is the key," Venca said. "They will reveal their mages. Then Hrafngoelir, Dhasan, and Loria will pick them off at long range. That will take away their greatest strength, and even up the odds."

"Like forcing them to play their trump cards in the first trick," Loria observed.

"Exactly," Venca nodded. "From there we will have a battle in the streets."

The Rasen led them back into the interior of the village. Once within he turned off the main street and wended his way between buildings. "We'll build frises and use them to fill in most of these little alleys. We'll leave just a few routes open to the square. That will force the bandits down channels of our choosing. We'll meet them here in shield walls and smash them." Venca smacked a closed fist into the palm of his hand for emphasis.

"Frises?" asked Daehyun.

"A simple barrier," Hrafngoelir explained. "You take a long horizontal pole. Then take two stakes sharpened at both ends and tie them to the pole like an 'X'. Fill the length of the pole with those spikes, and you have a prickly barrier that you can easily pick up, move around, and sink into the ground."

"That bamboo should work well for that," Phereinon judged.

"And if you do not stop them in the street?" Aecha asked.

"If we do not stop them, then we retreat to the distillery," the Rasen declared. "It's the strongest place in the village."

"But the raiders will be expecting that," the water priestess observed, "will they not?"

"You are right," Venca agreed. "But perhaps we can use that to our advantage?"

The former soldier turned his black clad frame to the direction of the brewery and once again stroked his goatee thoughtfully. "Yes, that might just work after all…"

"I love it when he gets that look," Hrafngoelir whispered into Aela's ear. "It means he's up to something truly devious."

"The smooth hide has an idea?" Dhasan asked the obvious question.

"Well Aecha is right. The bandits will be expecting us all to go in there, including the noncombatants." Venca now gestured with one hand to the distillery. "So that will be their target once they breach the walls. They are all going to converge upon that spot and take it. It would make for an excellent trap."

"But we would be in the trap with the bandits," Dhasan pointed out. "There is only the one way in."

"Not if Aela and her muddy friend there dig us an escape tunnel," Venca now turned to the Witch and her conjured gnome. "We could let the bandits see everyone go into the building, then secretly evacuate to someplace else, like that big wooden building across the square."

"That is the stable. We keep our hadrosaurs and wagons in there." Daehyun frowned. "Well, what we have left of them."

"But what about this trap?" Phereinon said. "Once we have them inside, what do we do with them? We'll have given them the strongest point in the entire village."

"How hot a flame do you need to make soju burn?" the Rasen asked. "And how much of it do you think we could have in the brewery by the time the raiders come?"

* * *

"You want to do what to my soju?" Vesia stared at Venca as if he had just stepped down from the moon. "And the brewery? You'll destroy everything we worked so hard to build here!"

"It won't destroy anything that cannot be replaced." Venca appeared to be unflustered by the other Rasen's exclamation. "You can always brew more soju, put up new stones on the walls, or lay new timbers on the roof. But you cannot bring back the dead."

The mercenaries stood back in the heart of the village, with Vesia, Ranazu, Daehyun, Hyunsu, and Aecha before them. Some of the other villagers loomed nearby, just close enough to listen in, but not so near to be truly part of the conversation.

"We all expected to fight with the mercenaries we hired," said Daehyun. "But not to see our own village burned down in the process!"

"Why cannot you fight the raiders in the fields, or in the forest?" Hyunsu asked. "Why fight here, in our homes?"

"We'll be slaughtered if we fight them out in the open," Venca said plainly. "They will surround us, pick us apart, and finish us off one at time. The only chance we have is with fortifications to fight behind, and narrow streets to prevent them from flanking us. We may not even have to use the brewery as a trap. We might stop them before that. But if we don't, we have to be prepared for the worst."

"The worst seems like the best we can hope for," Vesia grumbled. "Either way it seems our village will be in ruins."

"Venca is right," Aela came to the Rasen's defense. "Using the brewery as a trap won't destroy your village. Buildings don't make a community, people do. New wood can be cut, new wicker can be woven, new buildings can always be put up. People are the only thing that cannot be replaced, and that is what Venca's plan will save."

"Isn't that why you decided to fight after all?" Loria moved to stand next to the Arvern Witch. "For one another? We came here to fight for you, not for your houses."

"How is burning down our homes going to save us?" Hyunsu railed. "We were better off with the bandits!"

"No we weren't," Ranazu growled. The Rasen looked pointedly from the old Teodon to his daughter Aecha. "If we don't make a stand now, who will be next?"

"Sometimes you have to be willing to sacrifice everything you have, in order to save everything you are," Aela said resolutely. "Houses, possessions, wealth, none of it really means anything. All of those things can be gained, lost, or traded away."

Aela stepped up and laid a hand over Vesia's chest. "The only things that really matter are in here," she said, "and no tyrant or thief can ever take them away from you."

"That is easy for you to say," Aecha argued. "When the battle is over, all of you will leave. We Agrigentans will be left with ashes."

"Aela has sacrificed far more than you can ever fathom," Loria declared in a decidedly prickly tone. "She-"

Dhasan interrupted the high elf by laying a friendly hand upon his shoulder. "We will all remain to help rebuild." He looked from the other mercenaries to the villagers. "None of us will leave until the village is fully repaired and back to normal, agreed?"

Vesia frowned, but nodded in agreement. The other villagers followed suit, as did the mercenaries. Aela could see that the Agrigentans were not happy about it. No one ever looked forward to losing the things they valued. That was why it was called sacrifice after all.

"That's settled then," Venca said. "Let's get to it."


Earthen rampart, wall, and ditch

Cheavaux de frise


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Acadian
post Jan 12 2019, 11:57 PM
Post #107


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Venca and particularly Aela really proved their worth here. Venca for his solid (and clever) plan and ability to see what needs to be done and Aela for her magnificent muddy magicks that can actually transform the land to suit Venca’s plan.

It was reassuring to see the Seven stand unwavering with Venca as the villagers began to realize the likely cost of an effective defense.

Ahah, more teasers about a sequel with White Hair and the dirt-moving Witch! wink.gif


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Grits
post Jan 15 2019, 12:58 AM
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Today I ate a delicious new (to me) fruit and thought of Aela. happy.gif

Yikes, Venca’s plan was tough to swallow. But it makes sense, and the Seven did commit to helping with the rebuild. Venca’s plan was very interesting to watch unfold, but Aela’s gnome friend was the highlight here for me. His entrance was outstanding!



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SubRosa
post Jan 19 2019, 06:05 PM
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Acadian: Now Aela gets to step up and show what she can do, something we have not really seen since the beginning of the story.

All of that verbal sparring and fencing we saw earlier in the story is starting to pay off as noted, the Seven are standing together behind Venca. They managed to build up some trust after all. Though it is certainly not over yet on that score.


Grits: I hope you new fruit was not quite so stinky, but just as delicious as I am told Durian Fruit is. I cannot remember when I first heard about it, but it was so unique that I took a note about it so I could write it into a story some day.

Venca's plan is indeed a hard one to take. But that is just reality. Luckily he is equally hard, and ready for the task.

One nice thing about stepping outside of the Elder Scrolls universe is that I am no longer bound by their "put a hand in the air" to summon something. It does look cool. But there are other ways you can describe a summoning taking form in the physical world.



Chapter 13.1

Aela and her summoned spirit went to work digging the moat. The gnome easily moved the turf and loose stones aside. He did not so much dig it up with his hands, as he did wave it to one side, bidding the element to follow his will. So the earth spirit easily piled all of this dirt up on the inner side of the ditch. But rather than covering the bamboo fence and timber wall there, the dirt moved under those objects, actually pushing them up so they stood atop the tall rampart being constructed.

In the meantime the others split up and went about their own tasks. Phereinon and Hrafngoelir marched off to the bamboo-covered hills on the far side of the hamlet, while the rest ventured into the forest they had all traveled through to reach Agrigento. Aela noted the latter now carried wood axes as well, and imagined that Daehyun had supplied them from the village.

Loria vanished soon after, and Aela expected that the wizard would begin preparing mana gems as reservoirs for extra energy, or perhaps scribe scrolls to aid in the defense. The latter struck her as a good idea for herself as well. She could create scrolls to summon undines and pass them out to the villagers. They would go a long way to putting out fires during the battle. Perhaps there might even be time to brew healing potions?

Soon Aecha appeared, and the mudang summoned an undine to stop the water from the nearby paddies from prematurely filling the ditch that Aela and her own spirit were digging. The water priestess said nothing, but Aela could feel the Teodon's bright yellow eyes boring holes into her back as they slowly moved around the edge of the village.

"So are you going to spill those beans," Aela finally asked, "or are you saving them for dinner?"

"It is strange," the Teodon finally rasped. "Even for the scaleless folk, its energy makes no sense."

"Well that is one I have not heard yet," Aela sighed. "How pray tell, does its energy disturb you?" the Arvern said in as neutral a tone as she could muster.

"It is upside-down!" the Teodon spat out. "Its body is male, yet somehow it is not. Here its water is female, there it is not. Its spirit is wrong, like its tail is on its head and its feathers on its feet."

"You have no two-spirit people in your village then?" Aela had not failed to notice the way the mudang continued to refer to her at 'it'. "No ardhanari?"

"Ardhanari?" The black stripes that lined the Teodon's head bunched in concentration. "That is for the elves, not round-eared humans."

Aela laughed. "Well it's just a word," she said. "The Rasenna call people like myself semnotatoi, after the two-spirit priestesses of Nyktera. The Aymaran's use the term igerramen. The Asokari call us alyha. Everyone has a different word."

"It means the labarindja?" Aecha cocked her head to one side as she considered the Arvern. "Those are holy people, blessed by the ancestors to live in the third gender. Apart from man and woman, they are both, and neither, and beyond."

"Well think of me that way then." Aela waved a hand is dismissal, thinking that was the end of it.

"But it is not labarindja," the water-priestess declared. "They are special, chosen when their very eggs are laid. They bear the sacred ones' signs upon their shells. They are taken to the capital so that they may serve the emperor from the moment of their hatching."

"But it does not bear the marks," Aecha looked down her long snout at Aela. "Nor does it serve the sacred one, or whatever the round ears have that passes."

Momentarily at a loss for words, Aela stared blankly at the mudang. She had thought she had heard all the excuses for why people hated her for being a two-spirit. But she had never heard that she was not good enough for the honor! It would have been humorous, if Aecha were not so gravely intent, and her words not such spiteful claws.

"You are serious?" Aela finally sputtered under raised eyebrows. "You think I don't deserve to be a two-spirit? Because I don't have some sort of birthmark? Or my skin is the wrong color?"

"Of course it is not worthy!" Aecha insisted. "It is trying to claim an honor not rightfully its! It is unnatural! Most shameful! How can it presume to be what it is not, as if it had the right!"

"I have the right be whatever, and whoever, I am." Aela growled back. "My identity is my own. It isn't determined by my body. It sure isn't determined by you!"

"But did its ancestors not make it a man?"

"No," Aela's eyes narrowed. "I was, and have always been, a woman. I was just not lucky enough to be born perfect, like you apparently were."

"But why cannot it just be what it was born as? That is what its ancestors wanted. Otherwise it would not have been that way."

Aela was not certain if Aecha was genuinely puzzled, or if the Teodon was baiting her. She could not count the number of times she had this same conversation with so many others. No matter where she went, there was always someone who felt the need to tell her how wrong they felt it was for her to exist. They all seemed to think that she had been waiting with baited breath for her entire life for them to share their opinions. Aela wondered how the water priestess would feel if everyone around her constantly forced her to justify having a tail?

"If a child is born with a cleft lip, should it live out its entire life that way?" Aela fought the anger that was welling up within her, and tried to play nice with the water priestess. It is time to be building trust, she told herself. "Or with a club foot? Or with under-developed lungs? Or with an infection? Shouldn't we use our magic to heal them?"

"But it was not born with a sickness, or a split mouth," Aecha contended. "It was simply born a man. It should not pretend to be a woman. It is unnatural."

"First off, my name is Aela, not 'It'." Aela stared back at the priestess with narrowed eyes. If the mudang wanted to start this, she would end it. "Secondly, my spirit and my body are not yours to sit in judgment over."

"A turtle cannot make itself into a crocodile, no matter how hard it tries," Aecha fired back. "It will always be a turtle. It is a freak, and its ancestors will-."

The Teodon was cut short when a cascade of mud splattered across the front of her body. Aecha sputtered, and wiped the grime from her features. Aela turned to see that her gnome had stopped digging, and stood with a fist packed full of oozing slime.

"You had better go," Aela said, "you're making the crocodile angry."

"How dare you!" the water priestess cried.

The gnome raised his mud-filled hand, and it took every ounce of Aela's will to contain the outrage that welled up within her. She knew that the spirit was merely reacting to her own feelings. If she could not control herself, it might do more than just sling mud…

"There is far more to the worlds than what you dream of Aecha," Aela carefully answered. "If you cannot accept the fact that there are people and things different from you, and don't follow your ideas of how the multiverse was meant to be, then a little mud is going to be the least of your worries in life. If I were you I'd take a long walk and think that over."

The Arvern Witch purposely turned her back to the water priestess, and concentrated upon her gnome instead. She willed the earth spirit to ignore the Teodon, and return to his work of clearing the ditch. Aela heard the squishing of wet feet fading away behind her, and was thankful that the priestess had taken her advice.

A moment later water came flowing down into the ditch. Aela reached out for the water spirit that Aecha had just released. Gently entreating the undine, the Witch found that the elemental spirit was more than happy to assist her. The water stopped flowing into the ditch, and instead flowed up its sides and back into the nearby rice paddy.

In the meantime her gnome dissolved into the dirt beneath her feet. Aela sighed. No one could control more than one spirit at a time. At least that is what they had said at the Ingenium. Rumors existed that it could be done of course. But given that summoning created a mild telepathic link between spirit and mage, she was not sure how anyone could keep the commands between more than one straight. Her own near loss of control over the gnome just moments before showed how difficult it could be to direct even a single conjured being.

Climbing to the top of the ditch on her hands and knees, Aela emerged to stand upon the dike of the neighboring rice paddy. The field was denuded of rice, and filled with ankle-deep brown water. She imagined the undine moving the water into the next paddy, and a moment later she watched it rise up on the opposite banks and flow over the bunds into the other paddies beyond.

She would just have to alternate between summoning the gnome to dig the ditch, and then the undine to empty out all of the paddies adjacent to it, and back and forth again until she was finished. It would take longer, and require twice the energy. But no one had ever told her that being an ardhanari was easy.


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Acadian
post Jan 19 2019, 09:07 PM
Post #110


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’One nice thing about stepping outside of the Elder Scrolls universe is that I am no longer bound by their "put a hand in the air" to summon something.’ - - Heh, I don’t recall this ever binding you while writing TES fiction. You have always convincingly described magic and casting as you see fit and it has always seemed natural for your characters to do so. I do get what you mean though about some advantages inherent when doing your own world building. smile.gif

*

Grrr, what a frustrating encounter for Aela – made even more so because it is well-familiar to her. That water priestess has no business being a priestess of anything. One can only hope that before all is said and done Aecha will consider her good fortune that Aela’s reaction did not include withdrawing the Seven’s support from Agrigento. Should Aela have chosen to do so, I have no doubt that Loria would have joined her. With no magic support, the rest of the team would have no choice but to leave as well. We know Aela well enough though to realize that abandoning this whole village is not in her makeup.


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Grits
post Jan 20 2019, 12:42 AM
Post #111


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I like that keeping two aetherial beings summoned is too much for Aela. It keeps her from being a super-summoner, and it reinforces the idea that the summoning is a cooperative bond rather than fire and forget.

I love that Aela was able to rein in her temper during the turtle/crocodile chat and had the presence to tell the local priestess to go take a walk rather than going for one herself. This is after all not Aela’s first encounter of the kind by far, and she knows her worth to herself and to the village. What a great segment!



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haute ecole rider
post Jan 21 2019, 12:54 AM
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I rather enjoyed the exchange between Aecha and Aela regarding what is "natural" and what is "not." I myself have a co worker who is trans, and is going through the real life version of the process Aela is putting herself through. They have my respect, since in spite of the pressures they suffer, they maintain good cheer, kindness and helpfulness toward others, much as Aela does. Thank you for writing such a interesting character, and reminding me of this friend of mine.


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