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> Seven Reimagined, A new view of an old story
SubRosa
post Jun 2 2018, 05:15 PM
Post #21


Ancient
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From: Between The Worlds



haute ecole rider: I am so grateful for you turning me on to The Great Queen Seondeok, so many years ago.

I worked on the history of Dark-Eye in this version, giving him more depth, and creating a stronger tie between him and the local ruler.

These bare feet are a little different. I wanted some obvious way to set the Teodon gentry aside from the peasants. So I decided that the peasants all went barefoot everywhere, while the upper classes wear shoes. I literally got the idea from the old term 'dusty feet' used for the Helots


Acadian: Much of the exotic nature of the new world I built is in Kye Rim. Or at least in the non-human lands. I tried to use the human-dominated lands of Aulerci as a more or less 'standard' environment that people could easily relate to. Then as we travel away into other lands, we see more and more exotic and unusual things.

Clandestine meetings with outlaws are bound to go bad sooner or later...



Chapter 2.2

"Just bring out the tribute," the hwarang turned to nod at Sindeok and Buru. The young nangdo and his comrade walked back to the crumhead and unstrapped several chests and sacks that had been slung over the hadrosaur's heavy frame. Returning with the containers, they revealed them to be empty when they set them at Daeso's feet and opened them.

Dark-Eye said nothing. He simply waved to the teodon bandits lurking at the edge of the road. They came forward with bags and packs fairly bursting with coin and other loot and dumped them into the hwarang's chests and sacks. Yet when they were finished, there were still two chests left unfilled.

"Not enough." Daeso crossed his arms and stared back at Dark-Eye. "The Sublime Ancestor Gaesomun has increased the tribute."

Murmurs rose from the bandits, and Sindeok noted even darker stares than normal were cast at himself and the others. The bandit wizard lowered the oro-skull of his staff to point directly at the hwarang. Sindeok felt the mage call up his mana and channel it into the weapon, causing the ruby-red mana crystals set within the eye sockets to glow with fiery life. Girim looked to Dark-Eye, and Sindeok realized that the wizard was just waiting for leave to attack.

The bandit leader laughed instead. "Why, does Gaesomun not have enough golden chamber pots already? Perhaps we should give him something to fill those pots instead?" Dark-Eye turned sideways over one of the chests, and lifted his tail as if we were intending to do just that.

But before he could, Daeso drew the long, straight sword from his hip. The single-edged blade stretched out nearly three feet. Like all teodon swords, its pommel was formed into a wide ring. Daeso's was embellished with the form of a curling dragon that filled the interior of the circle, while the grip was protected by a disc-shaped crossguard embossed with images of leviathans.

Dark-Eye stepped back, out of range of the weapon, and lifted his spear in response.

"Perhaps we shall just send him your head instead Daeso," Dark-Eye said.

"It will be your head, not mine Ugeo," the hwarang replied evenly.

"Let us see." The bandit leader cocked his arm back and hurled his spear forward. Daeso was too quick however, and the hwarang sidestepped to avoid the missile. Instead its gleaming black lorcras head buried itself in one of the oros behind him. The poor creature screamed and thrashed, biting at the wooden shaft that now sprouted from its long neck.

Sindeok did not spare another glance at the riding animal however. Instead he watched Daeso, as the flower knight sprang forward with sword held in the high guard known as The Roof. With both hands upon the hilt, the long blade of his sword rose up into the air behind his head. Dark-Eye stood unarmed before him, and appeared to be easy prey. Yet Sindeok smelled mana rising from the one-eyed renegade's fingers, and knew some trickery was about to be unveiled.

The bandit leader raised his hand, and what appeared to be lightning sprouted from his fingers, taking the shape of an elvish longsword. With a straight blade four feet in length, the aetherial weapon also bore the crossguard and two-handed grip of any mundane longsword. Sindeok even noted a smooth ricasso just above the guard, and a small set of lugs above that.

Like all nangdo, Sindeok had some magical experience. With his mage-trained nose, Sindeok could smell that the weapon was comprised of mana of course. It was an extension of Dark-Eye's will, bound into the shape of a deadly weapon. The nangdo had heard of such magically conjured arms of course, but had never seen one formed.

Daeso brought his shorter blade down at Dark-Eye's head in a great over-handed chop. The bandit leader raised his aetherial longsword, holding one hand on the grip, and the other near the point. Sparks flew as the hwarang's steel crashed against Dark-Eye's mageblade. Now that it was bared and in its full fury, Sindeok could feel the enchantment laid upon the hwarang's own weapon. It proudly announced itself as Mireuso, or Dragon's Bite. The nangdo knew from experience that it would have shattered most mortal weapons beneath it. But instead it merely bounced off Dark-Eye's aetherial sword, which snarled and hissed in reply.

Sindeok imagined that both men's hands and arms might be numbed by the force of impact. But he knew Daeso would not be slowed. He had seen that his leader had a heavy hand. No warrior struck with the strength and power that he did.

Yet Dark-Eye seemed unfazed by the attack. He countered, bringing the hilt of his aetherial longsword around like a hammer. Now it was Daeso’s turn to parry, barely preventing his skull from being caved in by the morte-strike.

The two swordsmen moved back and forth in the mud, attacking and countering in a flurry of blows. But neither enchanted steel nor manablade found purchase in the scales of either warrior. Daeso fought with speed and agility, and Sindeok was amazed at how the bandit lord was able to keep up with his longer weapon.

The nangdo thought it would be slow and clumsy. Yet the two-handed sword was anything but. Unlike the one-handed ring sword carried by the hwarang, Dark-Eye often used his longer blade much like a staff. The older teodon would sometimes hold it with both hands on the blade, one near the point and the other toward the crossguard. This allowed him to both stab and cut with the point, and swing the opposite end like a club. At other times he would return to a normal grip with both hands on the hilt, or even choke up with one hand on the ricasso of the blade, just above the guard. Sindeok had never seen such a style before, and wondered if it might be an elvish method, for their people were known to use such great blades.

After another punishing overhead attack by the hwarang, Daeso lowered his weapon to a middle guard, that of The Plow. Holding his sword with the hilt near his waist, the point rose toward Dark-Eye's face. But Dark-Eye did not change his stance in response. Instead he still stood there with arms raised over his head, sword held between them like a staff in the position he had blocked the previous attack. Sindeok wondered if the older teodon had tired, or if instead it was some manner of ruse? If Daeso had considered the latter, he did not show it. Instead he took advantage of the opening and darted forward with his sword.

Dark-Eye swung the point of his mageblade down across his chest, like a door swinging open. The conjured blade of his weapon met Daeso's enchanted steel and swept it to one side. Dark-Eye continued the motion, pushing his tip down toward the ground. Before Daeso could disengage, the bandit leader had hooked the point of his longer sword behind the hwarang's knee.

Jerking his aetherial longsword back, Dark-Eye pulled the flower knight's leg with him. The hwarang stretched out, completely off balance, and fell into the mud. Dark-Eye followed quickly now, stepping on Daeso's sword wrist with a bare foot, leaving him defenseless. The bandit lord reversed his grip on his manasword, so that he now held it pointed straight down like a spear. Then he thrust the sparking point down into the unarmored throat of the hwarang.

It did not take long for the pure bone aristocrat to die from the mortal wound. Dark-Eye stared at him as he did, as if watching for the last moment of life to leave the captain's body.


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haute ecole rider
post Jun 6 2018, 04:25 PM
Post #22


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From: The place where the Witchhorses play



oooh, both magic and swordplay! Pretty tense fight there, though I felt Daeso was a bit overconfident from the start. Perhaps because of my memories of Daeso from the series Jumong . . . Or was it Kingdom of the Wind?

cool.gif


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ghastley
post Jun 6 2018, 05:15 PM
Post #23


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This all had me wondering about how a conjured weapon should behave. Does it have weight, and momentum, like a physical one? And if not, what difference does that make to combat?

In this, it's behaving like a physical one, and the fighting style is the same. But a weightless blade could be moved more easily, at the expense of having no momentum of its own, so that all force has to come from the muscles and leverage. That's much harder to imagine, as there's no real-world analogy possible.

The extreme case of that in fiction was a "sword" consisting of a single fibre reinforced with a statis field that made it unbreakable. There was a small ball at the tip, to let the user know where it was, or it would be essentially invisible. Effectively, it's all edge, and no blade. It will slice through any other weapon, but if you tried to block, the sliced-off section would keep going, and still cut you! The novel didn't describe what happened if two fighters used the same weapon.


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Acadian
post Jun 7 2018, 05:53 PM
Post #24


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From: Las Vegas



Quite the sword fight! Loved your descriptions of the summoned mageblade as well as the touch of personality you injected into each weapon (as announcing themselves by name).

Dark Eye is quite the formidable opponent, displaying the rare ability to use magic, while brandishing the manablade as effectively as any master of melee combat.


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SubRosa
post Jun 9 2018, 04:58 PM
Post #25


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Between The Worlds



haute ecole rider: Daeso was partly inspired by Kim Yushin from The Great Queen Seondeok, with his heavy-hitting blows. But he lacked Yushin's principles.


ghastley: I imagine that an aetherial sword has a similar weight to a normal one. Mana gives it form, which I also take to mean mass as well (the same with conjured spirits. Although in their case the form and mass depends upon their element. Air has almost no mass, while earth a great deal).


Acadian: Every magic item should be unique, with it own personality, based upon its creator, its history, and its function. I try to give a glimmer of that with their names, and how they make people feel when they perceive them.

Dark-Eye's finishing move is a real longswording technique. here is a link to it. I definitely stepped him up from the original version. We will learn where he got his training in magic and elvish longswording in this episode in fact.


Chapter 2.3

In the meantime Sindeok found the other bandits crowding around him and Buru. His hand rested upon the grip of his sword. But the nangdo knew the futility of the situation. He had no doubt that he was a far superior swordsman to any one of the outlaws. But with their numbers and position, he would die just the same.

For the moment the raiders waited, and all eyes turned to Dark-Eye. The renegade paid them no heed however. Instead he opened both of his hands, and his mageblade vanished into a sparkling haze. Drawing a knife of ordinary iron from his hip, the red and black scaled teodon squatted down over Daeso's corpse. Sindeok could not see exactly what it was he did there, and from the sound of cracking bones that followed, he did not truly want to know.

Finally Dark-Eye rose, holding the hwarang's bloody heart in one gory hand, stained knife in the other. He strode to Sindeok and Buru, holding the organ before him.

"For the past five years, you have both lived in the shadow of Daeso and his lord Gaesomun," he said. "All of this time, they have used you like tools, and prevented you from realizing your true power. For they fear what you might become. They fear what you might do. Just as they fear me. I will show you why."

"Daeso was strong, and a skilled warrior" the bandit leader admitted. "But mere strength and skill are not enough. True power requires something more. It must be taken. It must be consumed. Feast upon the heart of your enemy, and you will take his power."

"Swear by me, and I will show you a power that you have never imagined," Dark-Eye continued. "You will stride across this earth like gods. The scales of men will quake at the sound of your names, and the tails of women will be yours for the taking."

"What say you?" the one-eyed bandit turned from one nangdo to the other, holding Daeso's heart before them. "Who will take this power I offer?"

Buru shook his head and backed away. The corners of his long mouth curled downward, revealing the nangdo's disgust. Girim bared his serrated teeth in a terrifying rictus. At Dark-Eye's nod, the bandit wizard leveled his staff at the recalcitrant teodon. At the same time, the bandits near Buru all scampered away.

Once again Sindeok smelled the mana rise up from the wizard's bones and pour it into his staff. The enchanted weapon focused the energy into a brilliant projectile of fire, which leapt from the oro skull at its tip and blasted clear through Buru's armored chest. The nangdo did not even have time to cry out as the flames seared through his body and left a gaping hole in their wake. Buru simply fell dead as a stone into the muck.

Sindeok stared at the corpse of his comrade, and felt his tail twitch involuntarily at the sight of his charred scales. He looked back to Dark-Eye, and saw that he was aptly named, for there was nothing but darkness in the other teodon's gaze.

With one shaking hand Sindeok reached out to take the severed heart. He raised the organ to his mouth, and bit down hard into the tough muscle. He had to twist his head this way and that so that his sail-shaped teeth - more suited to grinding up plants than ripping flesh - could tear out a bite. The resilient meat was no easier to chew, and it was as much a physical effort for the nangdo to finally swallow the mouthful as it was a moral one.

But finally he did gulp down the meat. As soon as he did, a sensation of heat rose from his belly. It surged up his throat, and spread through his entire frame. It felt like someone had poured flaming oil into his stomach, and it was burning him up from the inside out. He wanted to scream, but his training won out. He would never so openly reveal weakness. Instead he screwed his eyes shut, and ground his teeth together to bite down the pain.

The fire in him burned on and on. By the time it was finished, Sindeok felt lighter, as if he had been freed from invisible weights. When he opened his eyes once more, Sindeok realized that the flame had burned away the nangdo he once was. In the place of that man of duty and honor, he felt something new: a hunger.

It was a hunger for flesh, but not just for any flesh. Somehow he knew - as if by instinct - that only the flesh of the Manaborn would do. Bread, rice, or the meat of beasts were mere fodder. They might sustain the body, but not the soul. What his spirit demanded now was something more. More than even duty and honor could provide. He could not put a finger upon exactly what it might be. Perhaps it was the soul of an enemy, the force of his life, or some other ineffable thing. But Sindeok knew one thing for certain, it could only be taken from a sentient being.

A cheer rose up from the bandits, and Sindeok felt several clap approving hands upon his armored back. Sindeok paid them little mind. Instead he turned his attention back to the heart in his hand. Taking another bite, he found that this time it was easier to rip out a mouthful and gulp it down. Now that fire in his gullet warmed him like the afternoon sun, and everything was right in the world.

The other bandits now fell to the corpses of Daeso and Buru, and began carving them up. Sindeok stepped back out of their way, feeling satiated for the moment. He saw Dark-Eye standing beside the wizard Girim. The two were speaking in low tones, but Sindeok found that by drifting nearer, he could overhear their words.

"Daeso was right about one thing," Girim said. "His master will now come for us. From the Celestial Flight company to the most lowly spearmen, Gaesomun will send everything he has to kill us."

"Let him," Dark-Eye said calmly. "We both knew this day would come sooner or later. It may as well come now. "

"They will not fall as easily as the farmers and travelers we usually prey upon," the wizard cautioned. "They are trained warriors, many you once taught yourself. We must be prepared."

"Aye, and we shall be my friend," the one-eyed teodon nodded. "We have allies of our own, and powers at our command. We shall journey to the west. In the forest of stone there is a place of darkness, the dark barrow where I learned the secrets of consuming flesh. We shall find strong warriors there, trained in the human and elven styles of longswording. There will also be skilled wizards, with the knowledge of elven magic. Then we shall return. The other outlaws of the forest will join us, whether they like it or not, and we shall march upon the Gyukon's fortress in Hansando."

"We shall meet them in the open then?" Sindeok noted that Girim's tail twitched as he spoke. Clearly the idea of fighting a set piece battle against trained warriors did not sit well with the bandit wizard. Sindeok could not help but agree with the feeling. He knew full well what his former comrades were capable of. Attacking them head on would be suicide.

"Of course not!" Dark-Eye laughed. "We shall flee, like the scum we are. We will melt away into the swamps and lead them upon a chase through the countryside. We know these lands, we know every fen, every river, every village. We know where to find food and shelter, and where the leviathans make their lairs. Those pampered pets know nothing, and will exhaust themselves in a fruitless and deadly pursuit. Finally, when they are spent, frustrated, and spread out across the rainforest, we will slip past them and take the city while it stands defenseless."

"But the walls…"

"Are of no concern," Dark-Eye waved off the wizard's unease and went on. "There is a secret way into the palace. One known to only a few. We will be within the very heart of the Sublime Ancestor's fortress before he can catch a whiff of us coming."

"And Gaesomun's heart will be yours," Girim smiled.

"His heart is filled with nothing but envy. The crows can have it," Dark-Eye spat. "But his riches, that will all be ours. You will not believe your eyes when you see it my friend. There will be fine silks and shining crios crystal from the Light Elves of Ainetir, and golden torcs from the Arvern in Aulertil. There are fine Rasenna wines, frost stones and amber from Skanlond, carpets and fire crystals from the Aymaran desert, pearls reaped from the ocean's depths by the Sea Elves, and more. He has a hoard the likes of which you have never dreamed of my friend, and it shall all be ours."

"Nothing can stop us now."


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Acadian
post Jun 10 2018, 07:51 PM
Post #26


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From: Las Vegas



”The scales of men will quake at the sound of your names, and the tails of women will be yours for the taking." - - This is epic on so many levels! tongue.gif

Wow, Dark Eye and his wizard can be quite . . . convincing as they coax Sindeok into their ranks.

Ahah, we do indeed learn where Dark Eye gained some of his elven skills, as well as the fact that he has a hidden base of fellow flesh eaters.

Sounds like Dark Eye has a pretty good plan. One that optimizes his knowledge and resources.


I got confused here. Perhaps a nit or perhaps something I just didn’t get, as there are so many new characters we’ve seen so far. In the lead sentence below, you mention the corpse of Girim – but I thought he was the (living) wizard of Dark Eye. Did you perhaps mean the corpses of Daeso and Buru?

The other bandits now fell to the corpses of Girim and Buru, and began carving them up. Sindeok stepped back out of their way, feeling satiated for the moment. He saw Dark-Eye standing beside the wizard Girim. The two were speaking in low tones, but Sindeok found that by drifting nearer, he could overhear their words.


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SubRosa
post Jun 16 2018, 03:49 PM
Post #27


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Acadian: I wanted to show some of Dark-Eye's charisma in the last episode, and demonstrate how he stays in command of his raider band. I also wanted to show how they get new members. I created Sindeok to have a pov character within the bandits ranks. Through his eyes we see how Dark-Eye leads, and what his goals are. We also see the inner workings of the cannibal raiders, and how they have been corrupted.

Thanks for finding that nit. I had indeed got my names mixed up!


Chapter 3.1

Aela fussed with her hair as she stared into the mirror. While she could use magic to make the long brown tresses clean, keeping them orderly was another matter entirely. Some days it seemed that every strand had a mind of its own, and that mind was keenly aware of its need to embarrass her. Aela was certain that spending days onboard a ship was not helping matters. Not with the damp air from the sea all around.

"I suggest shaving it all off." Loria crowded in the mirror behind her. Somehow his soft red locks managed to behave themselves. He was an elf after all, and their races were all known for leonine manes like the one Loria possessed. But perhaps most importantly, it was not her hair. The Arvern was certain that was the most important factor.

Aela made a face at him, eliciting a laugh from the willowy elf. "I'll shave your hair off when you're sleeping!" she threatened.

"Then I shall be the most handsome bald man in Veia," the Silaine preened.

"That you would be my friend," Aela could not help but crack a smile at the elf words. She wished that she had even half of his self assurance, not to mention good humor.

Loria stepped away, leaving the small mirror all to Aela once more. With a sigh she surrendered, and tied her brown hair back into a ponytail. At least it would be out of the way, and no one would mistake her for a giant ground sloth. She hoped…

She turned to find that Loria had already drawn their empty bags up onto his cot. He had long since put aside the elegant black and silver robes he used for adventuring, and instead wore a simple tunic, vest, and trousers of red and brown linen. She too, wore a simple skirt of linen, cut short in the elven style, along with a chemise and tightly cinched bodice. The two of them looked entirely ordinary, except that Loria still wore his enchanted amethyst ring of course, and Aela her crystal spiral necklace.

The tiny cabin that the two of them shared had a small writing desk situated against the outer hull. Directly opposite that was a door leading to the cargo hold. Flanking them were a pair of folding beds. Beneath each cot was a sea chest. In reality these were nothing but boxes nailed down to the hull, but at least they offered a place to store their belongings during the voyage.

Aela watched as the elf passed a glowing hand over first one, then the other chest. The latches to each popped open as he released the locking spells he had placed upon them. Neither mage was concerned with someone stealing their clothing, even enchanted as their adventuring gear was. Loria could always enchant something else to replace it. But their loot was another story. Mail shirts were not so easily conjured up. Rarer still was the cuirass of ancient Dark Elf steel. Aela knew that would fetch them a healthy purse of gold all on its own, and would go a long way to paying off their debts.

So after filling her traveling pack with her clothing and other things, the Arvern mage joined the elf in loading up their loot into a pair of sturdy canvas sacks. A trio of swords did not want to fit into the bags, and they were forced to leave their hilts protruding from the lip of one sack. Thankfully the armor folded down piece by piece, fitting much easier in the bags.

Aela was not so thankful when she hefted one. "It feels like there's a hadrosaur in here. Or at least a horse," she groused as she drew it up to her shoulder.

Loria grunted as he did the same, and led the way out of the cabin and into the hold beyond. The large chamber had once taken up the entire space from one side of the hull to the other. But at some point wooden walls had been installed to create the row of tiny cabins from which they had emerged, along with an identical string of berths lining the far side of the ship.

The remainder of the space had not gone to waste. The center of the hold was crammed with crates and barrels of cargo lashed down to the deck. More containers hung suspended from nets that swung from the ceiling beams. That left only a narrow passage free to either side, and the pair of mages found it to be bustling with the rest of the vessel's passengers, who all appeared to be just as eager as they were to make their leave.

"This would be much easier to carry if you would just summon up a gnome." Loria dropped his bag to the floor with a clanking of steel. "We did not graduate from the Ingenium just to drag heavy objects around."

"No, we graduated so you could learn to use weightless spells," Aela shot back as she set down her own bag of loot. "I thought your major field of study was materiality after all?"

She was thankful for her own knowledge of vitamancy, which among other things allowed her to increase her strength with magic. With that in mind, she gathered up her mana and channeled it through her body, using it to infuse her muscles with newfound might. She found her bag much easier to manage when she lifted it a second time.

"I found it more expedient to major in financial transactions," Loria winked. He filled his hands with light, and Aela recognized the Lighten Load spell he cast upon his own bag. She also noted that the Light Elf made no move to cast the same spell upon her own sack of loot. Instead the wizard raised his over-stuffed bag with ease and nodded down the passageway before them. "I thought you majored in spiritism though."

"I did," Aela said, "as well as vitamancy. But you know how summoning spirits gets the hayseeds excited. It's been four hundred years since the Sacerdotium was broken by the Skanjr. But in some places you would never know it. They'd be coming at us with pitchforks and torches before you could say Inquisitor."

"Aye," Loria smiled, "and then we'd have to kill them all. With nary a gold coin or gemstone to loot off their poor, wretched bodies. Best to let them live instead."

Loria led the way through the hold to the stairs leading up to the deck. It took some time, as they had to wait for over dozens of other people to go before them. Most of them appeared to be at least from the middle classes, given their linen clothing and moderate displays of jewelry. But some wore the velvet and upturned noses of the gentry. She was surprised to see a handful of what could only be peasants, given their rough-spun clothing. Even just a few days passage aboard a ship was not cheap. Aela wondered what would bring such a person with little coin to spare onboard, or send them on a journey hundreds of miles away?

Most of the others paid little mind to her and Loria, but once in a while someone stopped to stare at Aela. She knew that look all too well. She had been receiving it ever since she had transitioned to living female at the Ingenium. It was partly a gape of shock, partly a smirk of ridicule, and partly a sneer of disgust. She might as well have been something unnatural and revolting they had the misfortune of discovering upon the bottom of their shoe.

Aela sighed, and tried to ignore the people around her, and the disquieting feelings they conjured up. She wished they were back in the wilderness again. At least the animals and the trees saw her for who she really was, rather than simply as the body she had been born into. Even the Rasenna often said that animals were good judges of character. It was too bad they did not find a lesson in that…

She was glad when they finally made their way onto the deck. Not only was the fresh air a relief, but the chance to break away from the crowd of humanity was a balm. She made her way toward the prow of the ship, taking care to avoid the Rasen sailors who scrambled all about. That gave her a good view of the harbor ahead.

Tall cliffs of grey-white limestone rose up from the sea ahead and stretched off to the east and west. Cut into the barrier of rock was a strait of water roughly a mile wide. Into this channel their ship ventured. Aela saw the stone walls of a city rising high above the cliffs on the eastern bank, round towers flying pennants in the stiff sea breeze.

The Arvern Witch felt the stirrings of mana within the water below her. She did not even have to fully shift her senses to the aether to feel the undine taking physical form under the ship. By now she was so attuned to the energy of nature spirits that she could always feel their presence, especially one as powerful as this. The water spirit took hold of the ship's hull, and gently guided it into the strait.

Aela traced a thread of power from the spirit back onto the ship. She found it attached to a Rasen standing atop the sterncastle. He was a middle-aged man with a long curly beard, holding a staff in one hand. Aela almost laughed. He could not have looked more like a wizard if he tried. He might as well have been plucked from a bard's tale. Beside him stood the captain and several of the other officers and men of the crew, whom Aela noted were also all Rasen. In fact, Aela did not see a single Sea Elf in the ship's complement, in spite of that race's well-known mastery of the waves.

A glance upward showed that the crew still worked the sails high atop the ship's pair of masts. Even with the assistance of the water spirit, the vessel still had to make its own way into port. Aela had never heard of an undine being able to move a hundred foot ship all on its own. Not given the tons of cargo she had seen within the hold.

"Down the Spout we go," Loria murmured as they entered the strait.

The channel did indeed remind Aela of a spout as they entered it. In her mind's eye she imagined that Bronze Sea as a teapot. Then they would be entering the base of its spout, which she knew would eventually empty out into the Inner Sea far beyond the isthmus upon which Veia sat.

Aela noted that abutting the walls of the city on her left were also the turrets of a castle. Many of its battlements and towers overhang the cliff, to look directly down into the strait. Aela could even see embrasures cut into the very walls of the bluff, some so large that they must have been for stone-throwing artillery pieces rather than archers. A similar castle stood upon the far bank of the Spout.

Aela knew that catapults had a limited range. But given the height of the cliffs, she imagined that such weapons from the fortresses high above could reach any spot in the channel below. Here was the reason for the lack of Sea Elves and their vessels upon the Bronze Sea. Thanks to Veia's dominant position in the Spout, it was the only large body of water in the world that remained a human pond.

The city of Veia proper came into better view after they passed into the channel. The cliffs fell away in a vast goose-egg to the east, creating a wide harbor beyond the mouth of the strait. This left a long horn of land between the port and the Bronze Sea to the north-east, jutting out toward the mouth of the strait. The fortifications that Aela had seen before rested upon the tip of that horn, while the city itself stretched out to the base of the horn and out into the highlands beyond.

Down at sea level, stone docks stretched from left to right around the nearly circular harbor, brimming with ships. Most were human vessels with high curving prows and sterns like the two-masted hulk which Aela sailed upon, or smaller one-masted cogs. However, here and there the Arvern mage noted the graceful lines and characteristic triangular sails of a vessel belonging to the Silisce. She knew that this would be the last stop in the Sea Elves' journey. For the merchant princes of Veia would not allow them, and the competition they brought, any farther into the wide expanse of the Bronze Sea.

Beyond the docks, nestled at the base of the cliffs, Aela noted rows of square and rectangular buildings. They were constructed in the Rasen style, with walls of whitewashed stone, and red-glazed tiles covering their slanted roofs. The largest ones could only be warehouses, but even in the distance she could make out the colorful signs of smaller inns and aleshops.

Smoke from cooking fires rose into the skies, and Aela followed the fumes. They rose along the bluffs, where a road had been cut into the stone, crisscrossing its way up to the city high on the tableland above. The avenue ended in a massive gatehouse that protected the way into the metropolis, whose great bronze gates now stood open for traffic. Horse-drawn wagons and carts climbed the road to vanish with the gates, only to be replaced by others that issued forth to begin the descent to the sea below.

Veia Map

"Do you smell that Aela?" Loria puffed up his chest with a deep breath of air. "That is the smell of money. By the time we sell all of this, we should be able to pay off Mamarce the Knee for half a year in advance."

Aela wrinkled her nose at the thought of the usurer in Alalia. She owed him more money than she cared to think about. But without his loans, she never could have paid for the Ingenium. Especially after all of her scholarship applications had been turned down. Somehow even though she had graduated at the top of her spiritism class, she was not academically gifted enough to earn a financial deferment from the school.

Aela shook off the memories. Instead she produced a small hand mirror and comb, and went to work straightening the strands of long, sandy brown hair that had broken loose to harry her face. Once she was finished she proceeded to check the light dusting of makeup around her eyes, and the soft shade of rouge on her lips.

As she had a thousand times before, she sighed at the plain features that stared back at her in the silvered glass. She looked convincingly female enough for most people to never give her a second glance. But there was always one person in every crowd who noticed her slight adam's apple. While her magic had given her an hourglass frame, her shoulders were still a bit too broad, and her hips too narrow, and her breasts too small. Never mind her man-hands. Some things even years of magic could not repair, at least not yet. If only she had been born a normal woman…

Aela put the mirror away and tried not to look at the other women around her. There was no point in reminding herself of how she did not look after all.


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Acadian
post Jun 17 2018, 04:21 PM
Post #28


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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Las Vegas



Another wonderful episode chock full of goodness and fun. We get to see a very girly side of Aela as she fiddles with her hair and appearance. But we are reminded again of the path she walks regarding her gender. I so want to unobtrusively whisper inside her head (the way Acadian does when Buffy suffers from self-doubts), "Remember, those who matter don't mind. . . and those who mind don't matter."

I was quite surprised when the pair of mages struggled to heft their loot bags and struggled out of their cabin. Surely, I thought, dear SubRosa will not miss the opportunity screaming so loudly here. And sure enough, they did not go far before the expected magical resolutions surfaced to their big heavy loads and little magey muscles. tongue.gif

More welcome detail on part of the reason Aela quests - to pay off her mage student loans.

I'm glad that she and Loria have each other to support as you continuously remind us that mages are a bit rare in Aela's world and how they use their magic has consequences.

And finally, it was delightful to see 'Gandolf' as the ship's propulsion engineer as he gently coaxed an undine to power the ship.


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