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> Seven Reimagined, A new view of an old story
Acadian
post Mar 16 2019, 10:44 PM
Post #141


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The scene with Dhasan and Gyeong was beautiful. Dhasan shows deep wisdom by imparting words that were perfectly tailored to the youth’s situation. Dhasan gives the lad a gentle nudge toward an honorable agrarian life that will likely yield more years and a better chance of having a family of his own someday than that of a warrior.

A wonderful contrast as Phereinon then deals with the envious Ranazu for whom playing his role in protecting his village is not enough. Her firm counsel was also just what was needed. Unfortunately, I imagine she knows the chance of Ranazu heeding her wisdom is slim. But at least she knows she is not contributing to what he seems intent on becoming.

This episode was not only fascinating to read, it adds to the depth of all four characters involved.


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Grits
post Mar 19 2019, 09:53 PM
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Two conversations that balanced each other beautifully. Phereinon’s graveyard and glacier imagery suits her perfectly. I had to read this section a few times for the sheer joy of the language. wub.gif


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Renee
post Mar 20 2019, 03:29 PM
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Awww....

They all start gossiping about Phereinon, and it turns into a near-argument. The whole time I'm thinking she's going to hear them, and then she does! indifferent.gif

That farmer hopefully learns a lesson too.

QUOTE
"Well, don't we make for a motley collection?" Venca seemed to almost laugh. "I don't know how we will fight together."


It is interesting Florens, the way you have built this collection of differing personalities, all with abilities distinctly separate from each other in ways. Because I know you're not so keen on having followers in the actual games, but this is mostly due to wonky AI (them shooting yours in the back for instance). So it's just just interesting that you indeed have the vision to include more than one... maybe if the AI in the games was better, some of yours might seek companionship.

Wow, I've never heard of Mystery Hill. I'll read about that too, hopefully today.

Edit: Nice, I'm all caught up! Woo hoo!

This post has been edited by Renee: Mar 21 2019, 01:14 PM
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SubRosa
post Mar 23 2019, 04:31 PM
Post #144


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haute ecole rider: I cut the original version of Dhasan's conversation, and almost cut this one too. It is a little too close to the movies for comfort. I would like this story to stand on it own, as inspired by, but not a copy of, the Seven Sam/Mag Sevens. I did keep it in because it shed some more light onto Dhasan, and on the Agrigentans in general.

Phereinon is definitely her own story. Her history, and her motives, are a dark and brooding presence, always lurking in the shadows.



Acadian: Dhasan's conversation with the young Gyeong was a way for me to sneak in the continuing preparations for battle behind the more important (I think) view into the minds of both Dhasan and the people of the village. It is easy to cast the villagers are cowards for being under the thumb of the raiders for so long. It is not so easy when you have loved ones of your own that you are responsible for. During both the American Revolution and Civil War, there were many patriots who had to leave the service because their homes were literally falling apart without them there to work the land. I don't look down on them for making that choice. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for them to do so.


Grits: I did put the glacier and graveyard terms in there specifically because it was Phereinon speaking. She is always easy to write. She is like an oncoming glacier herself.


Renee: Gossiping is an understatement, they were talking about killing Phereinon because she is undead. Phereinon has been wanting that to come to a head for some time, so she can get it out in the open. She knew it would be messy no matter how it came about. So she decided to let them come to the issue on their own.

I love companions in other games, like Pillars of Eternity, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Wasteland, etc.... In those games the followers are not a constant source of frustration. I enjoyed creating a diverse cast of characters for Seven because it gave me an opportunity to really showcase the differing races and cultures in the world.

Mystery Hill is probably a fake, at least in parts. But it is still a really neat megalithic structure here in the US. There are a lot of standing stones and the like in New England. But Mystery Hill really takes it to eleven, with a dark, brooding feel.




Chapter 15.5

"You write in Elvish?"

Hrafngoelir almost leaped out of her skin. She looked around to find Aela standing beside her, looking sheepish. The Skanjr set her quill down, and looked over the page in front of her. It was covered from top to bottom in the graceful, flowing handwriting that the elven language practically demanded from a writer. One way or another, that would have to do.

"Aye, I learned years ago, from Ryolin," she explained.

"The elven prince who did not sweep you off your feet and carry you off to his tower?" Aela smiled wryly.

"The very one." Hrafngoelir laughed. "Though I would have been more likely to do the carrying. You know the elvish script?"

"Yes, and the tongue," Aela answered in the language of Loria's bright folk. "It is very similar to the language of we Arvern. Many say our speech began as theirs, and gradually changed across the years. So it is very easy for my people to learn. I find your own people's tongue, and runes, much more difficult."

"Nothing about Skanlond is easy," Hrafngoelir murmured. "Some say the gods meant it to be so, to make us warriors. But perhaps we only say that out of an abundance of pride, and a lack of common sense."

"Common sense?" the Arvern asked.

"Spend one winter in the Jotunfjeldene mountains, and you will likely not wish to spend another." Hrafngoelir's face fell into shadow. "It makes us cold, hard, uncompromising."

"So who is it that you are writing to?" The Witch sat down beside her, and Hrafngoelir took in her soft mango and orange scent. The Skanjr had seen both growing in Agrigento's valley. Apparently between potion-making, Aela had taken the time to create a perfume from those fruits as well. She had to admit that it smelled pleasant, and entirely like Kye Rim.

"It is a letter," Hrafngoelir finally said. "To my sister. I was telling her all about the new friends I have made. He would have liked you."

That brought a look of bewilderment to the face of the Arvern. She always seemed so surprised whenever anyone showed any friendliness or esteem for her. As Hrafngoelir had come to expect, a guarded look then replaced the moment of surprise. It was as if the other woman did not trust any act of kindness for its own sake.

Sadly, Hrafngoelir did not have to wonder why.

"To Hetha then?" Aela said, "the one who enchanted your medallion?"

"Aye." Hrafngoelir carefully folded the page into a palm-sized rectangle. Lacking wax, she bound a length of twine around it from top to bottom and side to side to seal it shut.

"How old were you when Hetha went from living as a male to a female?" Aela asked quietly.

Hrafngoelir almost started again. But she was not truly surprised that the Witch had been able to deduce the nature of her sister. Aela was not only a siedkona, but seirberendr after all. Just as Hetha had been, for a while at least.

"Only fifteen winters," Hrafngoelir said. "He was a few years older than me."

"I imagine that was a difficult time," Aela said as diplomatically as Loria would have done. "It must have been hard for you, and your family."

"I didn't know what to think," Hrafngoelir said. "It was like the person I knew all my life was really someone else. I didn't know if I should be angry that he had been lying about who he really was, or if I should be ashamed of myself for making him pretend to be male all that time."

"I know it was hard for my family too," Aela said quietly. "I embarrassed them. No, shamed them, to the whole community. I heard that they lost business because of it. One of my sisters was to be married, but her betrothed broke it off because of me. So far as I know, she remains unwed. I think all of my sisters are because of me."

"When was the last time you saw them?" Hrafngoelir felt a lump forming within her throat. This was sounding all too familiar...

"The last time I spoke, or saw, any of my family was when I left for the Ingenium. I was fourteen." Aela stared off across the rice paddies to the forest beyond. "I have never been back since. There have only been a few letters, like the one telling me I was disowned."

"You must hate them," Hrafngoelir breathed sourly.

"At the time I did," Aela admitted. "But now... I think I finally understand how difficult I made life for them. It was very selfish of me. I sacrificed all of their futures for me. Just so I could be who I wanted to be, who I yearned to be. I think it is one of the most selfish things a person can do."

"The only thing more selfish is to force them to live a lie, for the sake of your own convenience," Hrafngoelir lamented. "To take everything from them, because if you don't, others will take everything from you."

"Hetha's dead isn't she?" Aela laid a warm hand upon Hrafngoelir's own.

The Skanjr shook off the warm touch out of reflex. Or was it shame? She rose to her feet, letter in one hand. She felt tears drip from her eyes, and tried to will them to stop. She did not deserve to cry for Hetha. She who had failed so miserably as a sister. She, who was such a coward.

Hrafngoelir could only nod. She could not look at Aela. Instead she walked to the moat that surrounded the village, and eventually wove its way out of sight into the trees beyond. She cast the letter into the water, and watched silently as it carried her words away into watery oblivion. She was only dimly aware of Aela coming to stand beside her, and lay a comforting hand upon her shoulder.

She saw Hetha, standing there upon the edge of the cliff by the sea. Hrafngoeilr stood as if turned to stone. She wanted to cry out. To raise her hand. To tell Hetha to stop. But her body would not obey her will. She was weighed down, as if the very mountains crushed down upon her.

Then Hetha stepped off the edge, and vanished into the waves below...


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Acadian
post Mar 23 2019, 06:10 PM
Post #145


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I tend to think of this as Aela’s story, so it was a delightful change to have this episode written from the perspective of Hrafngoelir. Not only did we get to learn more of the Skanjr’s background, but the nature of Hetha provided a point of common reference. I can see now part of why Hrafngoelir so readily accepts and even admires Aela. Aela is a wonderful example of what Hrafngoelir probably now wishes Hetha could have been. Hrafngoelir doubtless feels, in part, responsible for allowing Hetha to be overcome by the despair brought on by disapproval of his change. She likely admires Aela’s strength, even as she is quick to support her Arvern friend.

An interesting discussion and contrast the two had regarding selfishness. Hrafngoelir’s source of guilt about Hetha’s change seems clear. We now have more insight into Aela’s different source of guilt regarding her own change.

And lastly, by being in Hrafngoelir’s perspective, it was fun to learn some of the Skanjr’s impressions of Aela.


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haute ecole rider
post Mar 25 2019, 02:32 PM
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Honestly I did not mean to read this story as a retelling of the Seven Samurai - but it does show how certain elements of the human experience are so powerful that they come up in many stories. The conversation about the courage of fathers is one such example. Charles Bronson was so powerful in his portrayal of the mercenary who respects fathers, it was one of the high points of the movie for me. I suppose it has made me more sensitive to other versions of this same conundrum, including your well done scene.

And you do it again in this segment - touching on the meaning of selfishness. When does selfishness become a self fulfilling prophecy? When you do what you want without regard for the impact your choices have on others? Is that selfishness? Or denying another the choice to be what they want or need to be? Balancing the needs of self with the needs of others (i.e. family, which is very strong in Korea, for example, that individuals are lost) is a classic dynamic that makes for thought provoking scenes such as this.

And like Acadian, I quite enjoyed reading this from Hrafngoelir's perspective.


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Grits
post Mar 26 2019, 07:59 PM
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Ah, here is an important look into Hrafngoelir’s heart that only she could give us. It was lovely to see (and smell!) Aela from Hrafn’s perspective. I admired Aela even more when after being shaken off once by Hrafngoelir, she continued to stand by and offer silent comfort. What a quietly powerful scene between the two women.


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SubRosa
post Mar 30 2019, 04:28 PM
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Acadian: As that old saw goes about good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment, this was Hrafn's bad judgment. That gave her the experience she needed to grow beyond who she had been, and open her eyes, and her mind, to the wide world around her. It is sad that it had to come so tragically. But Hrafn is no more a perfect person than anyone else.

And as you observed, it also does show some growth on Aela's part. As now she has come to see the world from more than just her own perspective. Even from the view of those she previously damned. It is an evolution that she and Hrafn both share.


haute ecole rider: Well, it is a remake of Magnificent/Seven Samurai. That is one of the things that always gives me second thoughts about this story. The plot really is not mine. I try to change it to fit the new setting, but I do not always succeed. I always really liked that Bronson conversation too. I think it was one of the improvements over the Seven Samurai, which did not have its equivalent. I think it was a very mature thing, because it showed that the real world is not so simple as morality tales of white hats vs. black hats.

I enjoyed (maybe enjoyed is not the right word) the discussion of selfishness. Like the courage of fathers, it is not something that is so simply delineated between good or bad, brave or cowardly. It comes in degrees, and is entirely subjective to every individual and society. It isn't right, it isn't wrong, it just is.


Grits: I believe Acadian once said a long time ago that I said that if you are going to change POV characters, it should be for something that is really worth it. This was something that I felt was worth it. As you said, only Hrafn can tell this. It would not have worked from any other POV. It is her confession, and is the root of so much of who and what she is today.

I have a lot of second thoughts about Hetha's suicide. On one hand it is a depressing example of several bad tropes, such as Women In Refrigerators and Bury Your Gays. But sadly both those are often Truth in Television. The latter won out, because in reality, a hugely disproportionate amount of GLBT people commit suicide because of the bigotry arrayed against them. I did not want to shirk from that, because it is a reality that Aela always has to grapple with.




Chapter 15.6

One by one, the days slipped by. When Aela was not busy brewing up potions with the small soju cookery behind Vesia's home, she watched Venca as he trained the villagers in the square out front. It had taken some time, but now the Agrigentan shield wall held up under the drill instructor's boot. Yet when he charged straight into the formation and crashed into their shields with a lowered a shoulder, the farmers once more reeled away in disarray.

Vesia often came by to see how Aela was doing. When the Rasen was not practicing with the other villagers, she was working in the distillery to insure her new batch of soju was brewing well. Aela still was not sure what to make of the other woman. On one hand Vesia seemed to frequently brush against her by 'accident'. But on the other hand the Rasen often seemed standoffish, and took a defensive posture, often with her arms closed. It made Aela wonder if the brewer truly knew what she wanted.

Days stretched on, and the defensive preparations continued, along with Vesia's dance around Aela. By now the moat had been long-since completed, and was laced with punji stakes hidden beneath the dark water that filled it. The front gate had been replaced with timber, and all of the bamboo that had once been used to fill in the sections of ruined wall had been replaced with thick tree trunks. The alleys and other narrow passages between buildings had been filled in with spiked frises, leaving only a few passable roads leading through the settlement. Even the escape tunnel between the brewery and stable had been outfitted with sconces to hold torches along its length. Trapdoors were set in the buildings at either end, and wooden stairs built to lead down into the subterranean passage.

Aela also had several jugs of magical brews ready for the battle. Some for healing, others for armoring skin, and more to resist fire. Loria had even enchanted over half-a-dozen necklaces with night sight, so that the village sentries could see in the dark.

More weeks passed, and Venca continued drilling the Agrigentans in the shield and spear. In time they did not flinch when he hurled his body against their wall of shields, nor when he pelted them with stones, sticks, even buckets, chairs, or anything else he could pick up. Now he spent more time training them to advance in the shield wall, or retreat, all without losing their cohesion.

The Rasen drill instructor divided the Agrigentans into four harads (although Aela could plainly see that their numbers came nowhere near a hundred each, in spite of what the Skanjr term implied). One of the Seven had been assigned to lead each as hersirs: Phereinon, Dhasan, Hrafngoelir, and Alcheon. At the same time Ranazu, Hyunsu, Vesia, and Daehyun respectively had been appointed rathningar - second in command - to each as well.

Finally Venca, Aela, and Loria would act as a reserve, ready to move to any point that needed extra muscle, magical defense, or firepower, respectively. Aela and Loria found this made them thegns (after the Arvern style), and soon everyone was joking that Venca was the drottin - or general - of their hird - or warband.

When asked privately if Alcheon was ready for the task of leading a harad, Venca simply said: "If he's not, we'll find out."

Hrafngoelir pointed out that all that the leaders really had to do was act as a symbol for the villagers to rally around. They were there to lend courage to the Agrigentans, and more than anything else see to it that they did not flee. Aela could not argue that while Alcheon might have been lacking in experience, he seemed to have no shortage of confidence.

Each harad was given a wall to defend, and when Venca trained them to move in their shield walls, he did so in each harad's allocated section of the village. So they practiced advancing and retreating through the very same streets that they would soon by fighting within. Even the noncombatants were drilled in evacuating their homes to the distillery, and then traveling through the escape tunnel beneath it to the stable.

Aela and Loria had watched one such training session, when Vesia approached them after it was over.

"Aela!" the brewer cried. "I was hoping I might see you."

The Rasen doffed her wicker helmet, allowing her jet-black hair to spill across her olive-skin in a riotous mane. The Rasen absentmindedly pulled it back from her face with a sweaty hand, but it only plastered itself against her equally sweaty skin. Her entire body glistened with perspiration in fact, and her cheeks were rosy from exertion.

"I had an idea for potion bottles," the brewer said as she stepped up to the pair of mages. "I was hoping we could go over it together, in my home."

"Now where did I put those mana gems. I could have sworn I had them a moment ago…" Loria patted up and down his green robes with both hands, apparently in search of said items. He looked up to the two women and shook his head. "I am afraid you will have to excuse me, I know I left them somewhere…"

Aela tried to hide her smile as Loria scampered off. She hoped his excuse to give her and Vesia some privacy was not as transparent as she thought. Then again, perhaps it was all for the better if it was?

"Those practice sessions look grueling," Aela said as the Rasen led the way to her home. "I do not think I could endure it. Not without a spell to fortify my stamina at least!"

"I didn't think I could either!" Vesia said breathlessly. "But here I am, a rathningar fighting in the skjaldborg."

"When did you become a Skanjr!" Aela laughed as they approached Vesia's home.

"Venca says our shield wall is more Skanjr than Rasen." Vesia gestured to the door with her spear, for Aela to precede her. "He says in spite of all that talk of axes with blades big as the moon, most Skanjr fight with spear and shield, just like we are doing."

"Well, he would know," Aela nodded as she climbed the steps and paused to take off her shoes. Vesia did the same, and followed her into the upraised house. Once inside, the Arvern took the bamboo spear from Vesia's hand and set it against a wall.

"Oh thank you dear," Vesia sighed. She let her wicker helmet fall from her fingers, and leaned back against one wall. Aela noted that the other woman was careful not to put her weight against the rattan sheeting that comprised most of the wall, but rather upon one of the support beams of strong durian wood.

"You look done in," Aela noted. "Would you like me to come back later?"

"No, just give me a moment to get my breath," Vesia fanned herself with one hand. "I guess that took more out of me than I expected!"

The Rasen moved to sit in one of the wicker chairs, and leaned back into its frame with her eyes closed. Aela stepped to the kitchen area, and produced a chipped earthenware pitcher and poured water from it into an equally battered cup. Walking back to Vesia, she set the cup into the Rasen's hand.

Vesia's skin was warm and damp under her fingertips, and Aela allowed her hand to linger there. The Rasen did not object. Rather she smiled and did not open her eyes. She moved her other hand to take the cup, leaving the first still clasped with Aela's fingers. Vesia finally opened her eyes to take a long drink, then rolled the cool surface of the cup across her sweaty forehead.

"That is just what I needed," the Rasen said. Aela wondered if Vesia meant the water, or her touch? Her heart picked up its pace, and she had to resist the urge to lick her suddenly dry lips.

"We should get you out of this armor," Aela said quietly, nodding to the simple cuirass made up of vertical slats of bamboo that encased the other woman's torso.

"Splendid idea." Vesia leaned forward, and reached down to start undoing the cords that tied it together down her side. Aela bent forward to assist, and in no time at all the two women pulled the light, but sturdy armor from Vesia's body. The black tunic that the Rasen wore beneath it was soaked through with sweat, and clung to her frame like a second skin, leaving little to the imagination.

"Why don't we get this off as well?" Aela breathed, and gently tugged at the linen. Her heart was in her throat, and she prayed to Cliona that the Rasen would not be offended.

"Yes," Vesia said in a husky voice. She raised her arms above her head so that Aela could whisk the garment from her body. The Rasen rose to her feet as Aela pulled upward, so that a moment later she stood just inches way. Her naked chest glistened in the light that slanted through the windows, and her hands found their way to Aela's sides.

Aela dropped the tunic, and the next thing she knew her hands were sliding across Vesia's back, pulling her close. She leaned her head forward, and the Rasen's lips met her own. They were soft as rose petals, and Aela rejoiced in the feeling as she planted one kiss after another upon them. She felt the Rasen's hands racing over her bodice, and paused to help her undo its laces. A moment later it too fell to the floor, followed by the white chemise that Aela wore underneath.

Somehow Aela had the presence of mind to focus upon a spell to enhance her strength. She lifted Vesia in her arms, and was gratified to feel the other woman's legs instantly lock around her waist. Carrying the Rasen across the single-room house to the sleeping area, she gently laid her out upon the floor.

Vesia pulled her down, and Aela found herself rolling across the wooden planks. Now Vesia straddled her, and showered her with kisses. She reached up to caress the other woman's breasts, then let her hands drift down between her thighs.

Vesia stiffened then, and sat back on her haunches. He arms crossed over her chest, hiding her bared breasts.

"What is it?" Aela felt her heart sink like a stone in the Bronze Sea. "What's wrong?"

"I can't…" Vesia shook her head, and turned away. "I can't do this."

Aela closed her eyes, and felt the other woman's body slide off of her own. The taste of Vesia's skin, which had just moments before been sweet as honey, now turned to bitter ash on Aela's lips.

"Because I am a woman?" Aela asked softly, "or because I was not born one?"

"I…" Vesia stammered. "I don't know Aela. I really don't know. It just, doesn't seem right."

"It seemed right a moment ago," the Arvern fought to keep the exasperation from her voice.

The Rasen rose to her feet and walked across the room to pick up her tunic. Hoisting the sweaty garment over her head, she pulled it down over her olive skin.

"You don't know what it's like," Vesia sighed. "Do you know why I run the brewery? Because my father did. Aecha is water priestess because that's what her mother was. Ranazu is a farmer because his father was. Our lives were all laid out before we were even born, and having a woman for a lover was never part of that. It's…"

"Unnatural?" Aela finished the sentence for Vesia. "That's Aecha talking."

"I'm sorry, but that's what I've been taught all my life." Vesia's voice began to rise. "Maybe I am just as narrow-minded as our water-priestess after all."

"No, you are not," the Arvern argued. "You are whatever - and whoever - you want to be."

"That is easy for you to say," Vesia snapped. "When this is over you will go on to the next hamlet or city. I have to live here. I have to spend the rest of my life around these people."

The Rasen leaned over to pick up Aela's bodice and chemise, and held them out to the Arvern. When she spoke again, her voice was soft once more. "I am sorry Aela, I really am."

"Nothing about it is easy for me," Aela replied just as softly. She rose and took her chemise from the other woman with a sigh, and slipped the loose garment over her head. Afterward she laced on her bodice. "Everywhere I go, I meet those same people too."

"You're a mage, you can protect yourself," Vesia sighed. "I am not so lucky. What happens when someone decides they have to murder me to please the sacers, or their ancestors?"

"You are right," Aela admitted. She had a similar conversation when she transitioned to life as a woman. Now she knew what it was like to be on the other side of it. "No one can live your life but yourself. You have to decide what is right for you, and what risks you are willing to take to live it. I have no right to tell you what to do. All I can do is support you, no matter what path you take."

Vesia blinked, clearly, support and understanding was the last thing she expected. In spite of the bitter sense of rejection that stabbed through her heart, and the hot anger at the unfairness of it all, Aela still had to repress a chuckle. The irony had not failed to escape her. Coming out to Asaryl so many years ago had taught her just how to handle this situation. She wondered if her old teacher had intended that at the time as well?

"So we can just be friends then?" Vesia's tone reminded Aela of someone cautiously sticking a toe in the bath water to see if it was ice cold or burning hot. "Like two normal women?"

"We are normal women!" Aela's tongue lashed out before her brain could stop it. Shaking her head at her own loss of temper, she sighed.

"I am sorry. I know this is difficult," Aela said. "I will always be your friend Vesia."

The same as with everyone else in the world.

Aela brushed her long hair back into some semblance of order. Then she looked back to the other woman. "You said that I am a mage. Perhaps it is time you were one too…"


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Acadian
post Mar 30 2019, 08:35 PM
Post #149


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What a wonderful job you did covering the passage of significant time without imparting the slightest feeling of rushing the story. What this village and its people are undergoing is significant and, as the Romans say, 'Fort Agrigento' wasn't built in a day. wink.gif

The ongoing combat training and preparations transitioned very smoothly into the scene with just Aela and Vesia. Once again, Loria shows his perceptiveness as he creatively excuses himself.

Poor Aela. Her hopes for the obvious mutual attraction between the two women were sharply raised then dashed. It seems her earlier noted ‘mixed signals’ about Vesia perhaps not really knowing what she wanted were accurate. In the face of bitter disappointment is where Aela’s nature really shined as she selected her words to support a very confused and conflicted Vesia rather than expressing her own pain and frustration.

A painful irony is that Aela has worked very hard and earnestly to be the woman she is; yet in this case she is rejected precisely because she is a woman.


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Grits
post Apr 2 2019, 08:26 PM
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I love how the villagers’ progress with their shield wall showed the passage of time. I could imagine the montage when they make the movie of this story.

Loria knows when to make a swift exit! biggrin.gif

Oh, dang. Well, Aela is no stranger to Vesia’s concerns.

"We are normal women!" Aela's tongue lashed out before her brain could stop it. Shaking her head at her own loss of temper, she sighed.

I’m glad she said it. That was something Vesia needed to hear.

Aela shows immense character here, reaching out to Vesia with support and kindness even while she is stung and hurting. I’m hoping for the best for both of them.


A nit: Aela said breathed, When she was helping Vesia get naked. I was almost too breathless to catch that.



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SubRosa
post Apr 6 2019, 02:55 PM
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Acadian: It is ironic that Aela being so successful at her transition is now stymieing her. Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

This Aela is a different one than the one we knew from the TES stories. I have had the opportunity to do much work in her history, especially at the university. Thanks to that, she has the presence of mind to be supportive of Vesia, hearkening back to a conversation she had about coming out to her mentor. This gave her the chance to say the same words back to Vesia that he said to her.



Grits: As I mentioned to Acadian, Aela had that same conversation in reverse when she was in university. Except time it was about her transitioning. That experience taught her how to respond from the other side. Though the ability to suck up her own pain and be understanding is all her of course. I was really happy with that when I wrote it, because it shows how she has evolved as a person.

Thanks for the nit. That was a remnant of a former edit that got left behind.





Chapter 15.7

Later that day Aela found herself and Loria standing before Vesia, Daehyun, and Alcheon. The Light Elf had tried to make excuses not to attend, but Aela had quashed that. "There is no way I am going to do this all on my own," she had said to the Light Elf. "Venca has Hrafn to help him train, I will have you. Besides, it will be a chance for you to show off."

So as she had done before with Alcheon, she first taught the others to feel their mana. Then came a lesson on how to create an arcane shield. Afterward Loria stepped up and showed them how to cast an arcane bolt. Just as Venca and Hrafngoelir sparred together to offer examples in fighting, Aela and Loria did the same with magic. The elf blasted with arcane bolts, and Aela defended with her shield. Every day their new apprentices practiced using magic together, just as they did with shield and spear.

As word spread, the tiny group of prospective mages grew. Hrafngoelir was the first newcomer to join in. Having some experience with using magic, she took to the spells with ease. Then Dhasan joined in as well, and with him a smattering of villagers, from children to elders. Even Phereinon joined the group, and displayed a knowledge of arcane shields that made her a perfect assistant to demonstrate their use. That allowed Aela to give her full attention to the class.

Aside from the deadwalker, Aela knew that she could not turn them into true, fully-fledged mages like herself and Loria. That would take years. The fact that none of them could devote all of their time to study and practice only exacerbated matters. Being a magician, like being a warrior, or being a farmer, was a full-time profession. To truly be one left little time for anything else.

Still, the Arvern knew they could learn some simple things. They might be able to spend a little time practicing. Someday, even years from now, that might just be enough to save a life. That life might even be her own. So she never doubted that it was worth the time and effort.

Soon Aela had another idea to aid in the village's defense. In no time at all she was handing out small, rolled up pieces of parchment to each new hersir and rathningar.

"Since we know that our enemy likes to use fire magic, I decided to make some scrolls to summon undines," the Arvern Witch explained. "They can put out the fires. Go ahead and unroll them and practice. I have more I made to hand out later."

"I have used summoning scrolls before," Phereinon said.

"You are excused from class then goodwoman," Aela said in her best stuffy professor voice. The white-haired swordswoman almost smiled at that. Almost. Then stalked off. Aela wondered why Phereinon had attended the classes at all. She clearly knew a great deal about magic. Aela could not see how any of the lessons could be new to her. It was as if the deadwalker simply wanted to be around her.

Perhaps she still wanted Aela to accompany her to the City of the Dead? Was she trying to win her over? Was that why she had been so callous in protecting the secret of her being undead? Did she hope that if Aela knew everything, she would be more likely to join her in her quest to unravel the secrets of the Sluagh?

"Undine." A chorus of voices broke her from her reverie. The village square filled with women comprised of shimmering water. Their hair waved like seaweed, their eyes were deep and murky like algae-soaked pools, and their bodies flowed like gentle streams.

"Now controlling a spirit is actually rather simple," Aela explained. "The act of conjuring forms a mild telepathic link between the two of you. Simply think of what you want them to do, and they will do it. You do not need to say a word. But you do have to be careful not to-."

Aela's words were cut short when Dhasan's undine suddenly leapt above her. A torrent of water splashed down upon the Arvern, soaking her to the bone. Aela sputtered for breath, and took a moment to push aside the long brown hair that plastered itself against her face.

"-Think errant thoughts," Aela finished as a chorus of laughter erupted from all around. The other villagers in the square stopped to gawk as well. Even the villagers training with Venca across the square pointed their spears and hooted.

Aela smiled, and raised a hand toward the guilty undine. The spirit stopped dead in her tracks, then rushed upon Dhasan, engulfing the Asokar in a small tidal wave. The vulpine warrior staggered under the onslaught, slipped, and fell into a widening pool of mud. That brought more laughter, and Aela had to raise her voice to be heard above the din.

"A scroll has the mana I placed in it, formed into the pattern for the spell I chose. But it has no Will." Aela shouted over the racket. "So they are easily dispelled or banished. A skilled conjurer can even take control of them. So don't try to use them against enemy magicians. Use them to fight fires."

But it was far too late for any attempt at seriousness. Soon undine after undine was splashing and drenching everyone present. In no time at all they were all rolling in the mud and water, and flinging both at each other with their hands. Others came to join in the impromptu mud fight, including the water priestess Aecha, whom Aela could feel had summoned her own undine to add to the chaos.

* * *

"These villagers certainly eat well!" Loria commented. Aela nodded in agreement as she chewed on a mouthful of pork, fried rice, and kimchi made from cabbage, radishes, and green peppers. She washed down the first spoonful of the spicy dish with a cautious sip of soju. She was pleased to find that the strong Teodon drink was not as rough as it had been the first time she had tasted it, over a month before.

Vesia had explained that the first soju of any batch was always harsh. The best came from the middle of the brewing, and the dregs leftover at the end were often reused for the next batch rather than drank. Now that the brew mistress had been at her work for several weeks, she had supplied them a cache of soju from the ideal part of the process. Though since it had not been given time to age, it was still not at its finest.

"Aye, if I had known farmers all ate so well, I would have never become a warrior!" Hrafngoelir laughed. "Probably for the best though, I'd be fatter than a hadrosaur!"

"Do you think the Agrigentans eat the same fare?" Alcheon broke up the guffaws from the other seven with his somber words. "Do you know what they eat? Plain rice, if they are lucky! Many of them have not tasted meat in years. While we sit here and feast like the sacred ancestor himself!"

Aela stopped chewing. Suddenly the kimchi tasted like ashes, and the soju like pond scum.

In no time at all the seven mercenaries had gathered up the meal and taken it outside of Ranazu's home. Soon the children of the village were gathered, and one at a time, the seven passed out bowls of the sumptuous fare for them.

Aela noted Daehyun standing off to one side, beside Hyunsu. "Now, we are one," the Teodon trader said in a low voice.

Aela smiled wryly. Daehyun was right. They had a reason to fight for Agrigento, and it was not for a bowl of rice and a cup of soju.


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Acadian
post Apr 6 2019, 08:17 PM
Post #152


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Progress continues as Arigento, under the guidance of the Seven, trains, practices and refines . I very much enjoyed Aela’s magic lesson – even as it deteriorated into a hilarious undine-fueled mud fight.

White Hair continues to be a mystery but I wouldn’t be surprised if her attendance was simply a show of support for Aela since we think her objective here is to recruit Aela for follow on service.

’In no time at all the seven mercenaries had gathered up the meal and taken it outside of Ranazu's home. Soon the children of the village were gathered, and one at a time, the seven passed out bowls of the sumptuous fare for them.’
- - This turning point and the ending to the episode that followed was very well done and shows us clearly that the Seven have now embraced their task more as protectors and part of Agrigento rather than purely as mercenaries.


Nit? ’Though since that it had not been given time to age, it was still not at its finest.’ - - Unless I am missing something here, the word ‘that’ seems awkwardly extraneous here?


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Renee
post Apr 11 2019, 07:23 PM
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Aww, love has gone awry. Sounds like life can be just as complicated in their land as it is here on Earth.

QUOTE
Perhaps she still wanted Aela to accompany her to the City of the Dead? Was she trying to win her over?


My thoughts too. Something is going on there. I love this deadwalker character, and how you have brought her to life.

What a funny class!

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Grits
post Apr 12 2019, 09:30 PM
Post #154


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From: The Gold Coast



I love how the magic lessons show that spells can be studied and learned by regular folks, but that becoming a mage is a full-time commitment. The reader can infer a huge amount about the world from just the beginning of this scene.

The undine mud fight was charming and hilarious. The perfect lead-in for the mercenaries learning about the food situation, and then truly joining the village.



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SubRosa
post Apr 13 2019, 04:04 PM
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Acadian: That was one of our last progress montages. Ending of course with the seven protagonists truly joining the village, rather than remaining simple hired help.

Thanks for catching that nit. Fixed now.


Renee: Love is complicated everywhere, even without phobias thrown in.

It was nice to write a light-hearted scene, given how serious so much of this story is. It shows that people can still enjoy life, in spite of everything else.


Grits: I did want to show exactly what you mentioned. Magic is not just for special people, born the right way or chosen by fate. It is something anyone can learn and master, just like swiging a sword, or laying bricks. It just takes time and effort. The same as any other skill.




Chapter 16

"Junhu still sees no reason for his band to join with yours Dark-Eye. He has done just fine on his own, and will continue to do so."

Only his years of training and discipline allowed Sindeok to keep a straight tail. Was this nom actually referring to himself in the third person? Did he think he was the sacred ancestor himself? Sindeok was glad it was Dark-Eye's gang of raiders he had fallen in with. At least Dark-Eye was a leader he could respect. This Junhu was nothing but a mudskipper with pretensions of grandeur.

Still, he must be a dangerous mudskipper, to lead a band of thirty some bandits. His scales were yellow and green - unusual for a commoner, but still nothing but a mud-foot peasant. They gleamed with bright color, revealing his youth. A long scar ran down the middle of his face, seeming to separate it into two halves.

The raider captain wore a straight bladed ring-sword, which Sindeok was certain came from a hwarang given its elaborately carved crossguard and hilt. A bronze lamellar cuirass protected his torso. The rectangular pieces of metal were burnished to a bright reddish orange. But the bronze guards on his arms and shins were less resplendent, and had gone green with verdigris. Sindeok imagined they must be centuries old Rasen cast-offs, like so much of the gear that Kye Rim's bandits and other lower classes used.

"I am thinking that Junhu does not see very much," Sindeok growled. "Given that his head is up his hindquarters."

"Junhu hears the buzzing of an insect," the yellow and green bandit said with his nose in the air. "It would be wise for it to keep silent, lest it be squashed."

"Junhu will be most silent when I have cut out his tongue." The members of both raider bands stepped away, leaving the pair alone within a wide ring of saurian faces. Dark Eye himself stood silent, arms crossed, and watched the exchange with interest.

"Who is this corpse who seeks Junhu's blade?" The other bandit leader emphasized his words by drawing forth his sword. The steel blade glimmered in the sunlight that streamed down through the leaves of the trees around them.

"I am Sindeok, hatched of Yeonsa, who was daughter of Geonbhwa." Sindeok drew his own sword and held it before him. "I call for the greatest among you to face me, that we may settle this with honor."

The former nangdo knew that there was no honor to be found in either raider company. But he also knew that now that he had called Junhu out, the other Teodon had to fight him. If he did not, he would lose face among his subordinates. It did not require an astrologer to know how that would end.

Until now the rival captain's intransigence had been running headlong toward creating a pitched battle between the outlaw bands. That Dark-Eye's group would win Sindeok had no doubt. But it would cost lives they could ill afford to spare. If he could settle this man to man, then the rest of the newcomers might still be integrated into Dark-Eye's company. All they needed was something dramatic to inspire their loyalty, and more importantly, their fear.

Without another word Junhu attacked. He went from perfect stillness to an explosion of action. Clearly, he had practiced a quick draw. It was not quick enough however, and Sindeok parried, then countered with a thrust of his own. Junhu side-stepped, taking himself off line, and kicked mud up into Sindeok's face.

Sindeok ducked under the brown missile, and was ready when Junhu came in with a chop that came straight down at his head. Once again he parried. This time their blades locked, hilt against hilt. Before Sindeok could rise, Junhu took advantage of his higher position to shove down, both hands upon his sword. Sindeok felt himself being pushed down into the mud. In a few moments he would lose his balance, and be on his back.

He remembered what he had read in Recipes For A New Age. He followed the Scale-Breaker's writing, and filled his scales with mana. Focusing on the image of the blade she had described, he released his power, and willed it into reality.

A brilliant dagger of what seemed to be pure lightning formed in his free hand. Wasting no time, Sindeok pushed the aetherial blade under both their swords and cut from side to side. Junhu screamed, a high-pitched and most unmanly sound, as the arcane weapon neatly sliced off both of his hands.

The rival bandit chief staggered back, staring at the bloody red stumps of both his arms. Sindeok followed, and once again swept his aether-blade from side to side. This time it took off the front of Junhu's mouth, tongue included. A kick sent the bandit sprawling into the mud, still writhing. Sindeok took care not to deliver any instantly mortal wounds as he further dismembered the pathetic creature. Still, it was not long before life fled the bloody fragments that had once been Junhu.

"Who else will face me?" Sindeok hissed. He turned to the members of Junhu's band. He clutched his own ring-sword in one hand, and aetherial dagger in the other. "Anyone?"

No one answered, no one dared move a finger to a weapon. The question of whether or not they would join Dark-Eye's band had been settled.

Sindeok turned to face his master, and saw a smile cross the older Teodon's features. Dark-Eye walked to his side, and cut the heart from Junhu's mutilated remains. He took the first bite, and offered the second to Sindeok. The former nangdo dispelled his manablade and eagerly accepted the succulent meat, glorying in the hot blood that splashed down his throat.

Then Dark-Eye took the rest of the heart, and offered it up to the new members of the raider company. Many blanched at the sight, and turned away. Dark-Eye allowed this to pass, at least for now. They needed men right now, and could not afford to butcher so many. But Sindeok knew that sooner or later, they would all partake of Manaha's Dark Communion.

The rest of Dark-Eye's band cut up Junhu's remains and began passing the meat around. As they feasted, the bandit captain laid one arm around Sindeok's shoulder, and led him away.

"Very well done my friend," he said. "Very well indeed. I knew you would make the most of the Scale-Breaker's wisdom."

"Thank you my lord," Sindeok replied. He kept his head down, as a dutiful nangdo would when praised by his hwarang.

"I want you to take command of these new ones," Dark-Eye said. "Whip them into shape, and show them how things are done among us. Soon, we will take them into battle. I will be counting on you most then."

"I was thinking of that my lord," Sindeok ventured carefully. "If we are to face the gyukon's forces, would it not be best if we trained? These men are killers yes, but they have no discipline, no order."

Dark-Eye laughed.

"If they were capable of taking orders, of doing what they are told, they would not be bandits in the first place. You can turn farmers into soldiers. They are used to following commands. But not scum like this."

"But how will we face the gyukon - the Celestial Flight - with such a force?" Sindeok questioned.

"Just like that book I gave you says my friend," Dark-Eye explained. "We will fight with stealth, surprise, and ferocity. We will not line up in the open like a Rasen army. Instead will be like orcish night raiders - moving swiftly and silently, attacking where our enemy is weak, fading away when faced with strength. Every time we will take weapons, equipment, and food from the enemy. He will be our quartermaster, and as he weakens, we will grow stronger."

"Tell me Sindeok," Dark-Eye continued in a lower tone, "do you miss the old days, when you were among the hwarang?"

Sindeok knew that this was a dangerous question, and that his life might hang in the balance of his answer. But he felt that lying would be the crime most unforgivable to Dark-Eye.

"Yes," he admitted. "Sometimes I miss being a man of honor, among other men of honor. I miss… it was not the friendship… but the loyalty. The absolute trust I had for every other man in my company. That cannot exist here, in this sea of blood upon which we drift."

"An honest answer, from an honest man," Dark-Eye sighed. "We are both men of honor, in a world where honor does not exist. I will tell you a secret. It never truly existed when we were members of the Celestial Flight either."

"Do you know much of the Skanjr?" Dark-Eye asked. When Sindeok shook his head, he continued. "They put much stock in oaths, such as those between warrior and lord. This is why the Rasen and other folk prize them as mercenaries. They can be trusted to keep their word. Well, most of them at least."

"But these oaths do not run in one direction only," Dark-Eye explained. "Both parties - master and servant - swear fealty to one another. If one breaks faith, the other is freed of all obligation. Gaesomun - our gyukon - never had that faith with us. He never had any loyalty, except to his own greed. He piddles his money away in games of chance. Then outlaws a noble or a merchant, takes his wealth, and uses it to pay his debt. He raises special taxes to gild his palace in greater splendor, then sends us out to kill the peasants incapable of paying. He plays us like the cards in a game of gabo japgi."

"Gaesomun has betrayed his obligations to all of us, noble, farmer, and outlaw alike," Dark-Eye declared. "We are not adrift in this sea, I assure you. Our course has always been his destruction. Let this be the object of your honor. Not service, but vengeance!"

"Now I grow thirsty," Dark-Eye said, "and I know just to place where we can stop for some soju."


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Acadian
post Apr 13 2019, 07:11 PM
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Wow, this was brilliantly-written!

I could cut the tension in the air building between Sindeok and Junhu with an aetherial blade. Then a quick, dirty and bloody fight – gruesome even. Sindeok is a terrifying opponent!

Dark-Eye was right – the situation was very well-played by Sindeok to eliminate a rival while, likely, increasing his own band’s numbers.

This episode really locked in for me what makes both Dark-Eye and Sindeok tick and crystallized their motivation. They have each become vividly memorable characters now.

Ahah, some soju to wash down the hearts of their foes. It looks like all the work and preparations in Agrigento are going to be put to a deadly test.


Nit: “It never truly existed when were members of the Celestial Flight either." - - Looks like this is missing word before ‘were’. Perhaps ‘we’?


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Grits
post Apr 14 2019, 04:16 PM
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I love Sindeok’s Teodon expressions (straight tail, mudskipper).

If I didn’t know Aela’s team, I could almost root for Sindeok after this scene. Outstanding, this section should be in a class about how to create compelling antagonists.

I love that the Scale-Breaker’s writing allowed Sindeok to learn how to create his very scary aether-blade, and that she might see it if he uses it against the villagers.


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Renee
post Apr 20 2019, 02:18 PM
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Urrr urrr cripes!!! Ewwwww he ate the guy's heart!!! blink.gif

Yeah I think I'll skip my next soju break....
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