sythyry: (Default)

[Sorry to be so long between Nexterie entries. I lost my job at the end of November, and I have been rather too stressed to deal with fiction. I'm not employed yet, but I'm a bit more relaxed, so I'm going to try getting back to posting. Probably irregularly for a while. Also, sythyry.com got hacked to bits, and isn't put back together yet, so if you're not reading it here you might need to read it here. (It is not helpful to put that notice here, is it?) -bard]

I attacked with flattery and seeming subservience. "Xshaothshash? After a complex negotiation, we desire a sit-down meal in the style of the Bun̮phíd͖a̦la̯̽, native as they are to Ixange. You are our protector in all things. Where may we dine without risk of the decaying pandanus leaves and pickled peccary trotters that most local chefs seem to insert frequently, almost spuriously, into their offerings?"

The vast fortress of a beast smiled benevolently. "It is good that you understand my protectorship! We shall have a lengthy and profitable relationship. In any case, the Bunfi café yonder, called 'Surimap's Sweet Sweet Heaven Paradise of Gustatory Prominence', is far and away your best choice. Please disregard the notices upon the door; they refer to an incident which need not concern you."

We thanked the dragon and approached Surimap's Sweet Sweet Heaven Paradise of Gustatory Prominence. Without Xshaothshash's warning, the signs might indeed have deterred us. Beware of carnivorous moths, which have been sighted here and taken bites of both customers and staff, said one. Diners subject to irrational distaste for pebbles and lumps of moss in their stew may wish to dine elsewhere, said another.

"You're here," said the waiter, a badger who smelled strongly of arrack and fermented lichen.

"We're here, we're hungry, and we wish to contemplate your menu and dine upon your finest," said Hditr briskly.

"I'll see if we've an operation," said the waiter. He ambled around the restaurant, at which twenty-two tables (I counted) stood open and three (I counted) were occupied by nervous patrons muttering darkly about Xshaothshash and wondering if I was somehow that monster's nephew. "Although we are generally verily full, with a whaling list as long as my arm, we're not busty today. You can shit there, by the door. I'll bring you menudos shortly." He toddled off, following a poor approximation of a straight line.

We sat as far towards the back as we could. Xshaothshash's left hindclaw and tail were visible out the restaurant's smeary window, but perhaps we were unobserved.

"Was that monster ordering you around too?" asked a toad at the next table.

"Yeah, yeah. Bopulent beast," said Hditr. "Why's it here? Legal or not, do you know?"

The toad grinned. Well, it's legal, all right. The Bridge Council hired it to guard against undesirables and bluggards coming from other worlds. Just yesterday it earned its pay — it chased off Fierce Novvert and his band of brigands, can you imagine! But it's a brigand in its own right. Takes bribes all over, it does. Last week Gleenkaporkup's Sweet Sweet Palace Cosmic of Traditional Bunfi Banquetry paid to have some signs put up in front of this place. You might have seen them. Does Surimap dare take them down? He does not! For fear a great scaly tail might sweep his Sweet Sweet Paradise away! But he gives Xshaothshash his coins. Xshaothshash won't let him take the signs down, being an honest bully what stays bought, but will direct custom to Surimap instead of Gleenkaporkup. Next week Gleenkaporkup will pay again, and who knows what he will do? So I am eating at Surimap's now, while it is still open. Next week it may be full of mud and moths."

"So it is a good restaurant, featuring neither pebbles nor moss?"

The toad nodded, which is a whole-body movement for such a neckless person. "The best by Norshub! When the waiter isn't miserable drunk at least."

The drunken waiter returned, bringing us small square plates containing boiled scarabs. He glared at us a moment. "You didn't order these."

I chirped, "We didn't."

"The guys at tribal eight did," complained the waiter.

"I suppose so," I said.

"Then how come you get them?"

"We don't. They go to table eight."

"... Right. That'll come out of my celery somehow, I'm shure of it," said the waiter, and took the scarabs to their proper place.

"Time to go!" said Hditr, and we headed for the back of the restaurant, away from any watching Xshaothshash.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage, my epistolary savior. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; none are crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Homeward Bound

Johand: Kuur, you are guilty of many crimes against the Scorth Provisional Authority. The proper sentence for these crimes is death. However, we will commute your sentence if you send Cleiestis back to her home.

Kuur: I deny your authority! If you kill me, it will be one more murder on your hands, one more cup of blood at your lips!

Johand: You don’t understand. You are either being stupid or willfully disobedient, and we have established that you, alone among all the Dumu Thoik, are not stupid. The penalty for disobedience is whipping. Now, will you send poor Cleiestis and her eggs back home, or will you die for it?

Kuur: You are a liar and a Scorthman. There is no trusting you. I shall not send the demon away. I will leave her in your hands. She is a vicious and malevolant creature, and she will find a way to destroy you all and claim your souls. Dumu stories — speak of us like this. Ancient Dumu — sorcerers, summoners, enchanters, practitioners like Kuur. No wonder my ancestors did all they could to destroy them, and were as demons to them.

Johand: She’s rather sweet actually. Scorth stories — speak of us as sweet spirits, helpful. Also tiny.

Kuur: You will learn otherwise to your despair, in no small time.

Johand: Baliff, please encourage the prisoner to be cooperative.

Kuur — beaten until he bled and cried out.

Me — not feeling sweet about that. Deserved — yes. Good to watch — no.

Kuur: Very well! You have won this round, Johand! I will send the demon back to the hell of Gemgaru!

Nowhere Bound

Kuur’s workshop — cluttered, scattered! Trash and gauds everywhere! Geometry upon the floor! Burning compost and herbs in the bowl! Sword of metal stabbed into shield of flesh! Everywhere the strange things!

Kuur: Johand, you will work as my assistant. Stand right there, in that octagram.

Johand: The least betrayal and I will have your neck.

Kuur: It won’t be necessary. You shall be dead soon, and I shall as well.

Johand: What treachery is this?

Kuur: The fumigants include drosko nuts. We have all breathed their smoke. You can feel it itching in your chest already. By noontime we’ll have sores sprouting inside our lungs. By evening-time the sores will split, and we will all be choking on our own watery pus. It’s a quite horrible death. So feel free to have your baliff shoot me now, before the pain starts. You’ll be begging him to shoot you soon enough.

Me — darting over! Healing Johand! Healing myself too!

Johand: If I am not mistaken, I haven’t much to worry about from your silly little drosko nuts. I’ve got a friendly couatl, you see. She doesn’t seem eager to heal you though. Perhaps if you’d treated her better …? Still, if you want to have any hope of assassinating me, you’d do well to send her back to Gemgaru and deprive me of her protection. But I think we’ll put an end to your smoky little tricks. I shall be one of your assistants; your son shall be the other.

Kuur: Not my son! He must remain free of the taint of sorcery!

Johand: Baliff, please be so kind as to encourage Kuur a bit more. Don’t break any bones though.

After encouragement — I healed Kuur — my way home.

Nowhere Bound, Again

Douk: I should be in the mines, helping!

Johand: You should be here, obeying the provisional authority.

Kuur: My son! Remember me as a brave man, at the end! He threw a human-head-sized idol of black at Johand. It split, and spilled thick black fluid over him. Kuur flung a torch, and the fluid blazed up.

Johand: I say, this is not comfortable.

Baliffs — Put out the flames as best they can. Club Kuur to unconsciousness.

Me — heal Johand hard!

Johand: I don’t seem to be able to see out of my left eye. I apologize for making you constantly heal me, Cleiestis. I must learn not to trust Kuur a bit.

Third Time

Kuur — bruised, battered into submission. I shall send the monster home. Not wholly into submission: After it is gone I shall assassinate you in peace and comfort.

Johand: I shall anticipate your murderous brutalities almost eagerly.

Sorcery — the stinking of burnt things, the pouring-out of words, the filling a bowl of sand. My digging down into the sand, my eggs strapped to my back between my wings.

Between — Dizzying. Digging down into sand became digging up. Stretching and probing with my head, filling my feathers with sand.

Poking my head out.

Homecoming. Twining necks with Tomolrouc. Homecoming.

Returning to Tellosh

But —

Tellosh — the world of every wickedness. Kuur — wicked. Scorthmen — wicked. Markosh — wicked.

But —

Kuur — wickedly working to save his people from the Scorthmen. Scorthmen — wickedly working to save Kuur’s people from the Markoshian death cloud. Markoshians — wickedly working to avenge their own deaths.

My gift to Johand — I and many priest will go to Tellosh, as the death cloud approaches. Our spells — keeping many of Tellosh alive, perhaps. Not the Dumu Thoik, whose wickedness bit me. Not the Scorthmen, whose wickedness saved me. But the hundred others whom the Scorthmen enslave and give to brutality, if we can get a hundred priests.

It will have to do.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

A pang from «Cuisine» caught my attention. I was hungry, and there was more to eat in this populous and public place on Ixange than lentil stew reheated over a spirit lamp, and I had a certain amount of money left — though not for long. It was getting to be time to come up with more.

A thousand foods beckoned: street vendors, cafés, fine establishments of dining. Here a badger-woman offered peppered live earthworms from a barrel. There a troupe of spidersen spun sugar taffy into confectionary webs. Beyond a human filled peppers with cheese and grilled them slowly over a bed of coals. Sidewards a toad in precise robes stood stiff and silent by the door Panfornio’s Restaurant, while a pair of foxes holding hands examined the posted menu and debated the price in low tones.

(Honesty! Always honesty! Perhaps they were debating the quality of the restaurant, or their betrothal, or the state of the sky. It might even have been an opaque theorem in mathematical numismatics. Too low to hear, anyhow.)

I asked «Cuisine» for a recommendation, got it, and then said, “Excuse me! I want to buy a worm,” and headed over for the badger-woman.

A vast forepaw planted itself in the plaza in front of me. Xshaothshash boomed, “Tllith, have a caution of bewares! That badger-woman is Vondsa Mirapt!”

I peered up at my protector, baffled. Hditr said, “I am unaware of the local notables. The fame or infamy of this Vondsa Mirapt is, alarmingly, not yet discussed in the mining-camps of Drullguur.”

“But — you must never buy worms from Vondsa Mirapt!” exclaimed the large dragon. Vondsa glared at Xshaothshash, shouldered her barrel, and grunted away.

“Why must one never buy worms from her?” asked Hditr.

“Her worms are tinged with foulness and blasphemy! She digs them in lich-yards and around the edges of cemetaries! They have fattened on the corpses of her very own great-grandparents-in-law! Could you imagine eating such worms as that?”

“Do not the Ixangians have the invariable custom of hurling their newly-dead from the sides of bridges — the starboard side for those they consider deserving of blessings, and the port side for those they despise?” asked Hditr.

“Such a custom may exist in certain quarters,” admitted the fortress-dragon. “It could even explain the frequent and rapid descent of people from above. I had suspected them of suicide, in despair at such blemishes as extreme old age, knife wounds to the abdomen, and, most miserable of all, missing heads. For some reason, after their landing, the were reluctant to discuss the matter, even in those rare cases when the heads were intact.”

Eric asked, “What happens to them, if they are thrown from a higher bridge onto a lower?” Perhaps he had a personal stake in the matter.

“They are flung off the bridge — the side makes no difference — and eventually end up in the swamp.”

“I wonder where this Vondsa finds her cemetaries, then?” mused Hditr. “Does she descend into the swamp for worms?”

“Your theological speculations are far too abstruse for my meagre intellect,” said Xshaothshash. “In any case, do not buy from Vondsa. If you seek worms, you must get them at Chur Chub’s shop.”

I asked «Cuisine» about Chur Chub’s worms, and was informed that they were stale. “I seek worms no more. Stuffed buns, perhaps?”

“Ah! For stuffed buns, you may purchase from either Dool or the Norshub End Bakery. All other bun-sellers stuff their buns with chopped moths and rotten grain-nodules, which would cause you a confounding spasm of the intestines,” said our substantial and fortified and supposedly well-informed guide.

Hditr rubbed her ears and wiggled her tongue, and looked at me with a glance loaded with invisible meanings. I blinked at her. She gestured, little fluttery secret finger movements. I stared. She glared. I cast a little «Language» spell to ask, “What do all those gestures mean?”

She answered silently, using my spell, “I wanted to talk to you without Ex-shaft-sash there eavesdropping on us. We gotta get out of here.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Dragon wants us to buy from the guys who are giving him kickbacks. I don’t want to. Besides I think he’ll demand a tip from us. I sure don’t want to pay him a tip.”

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage, my epistolary savior. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; none are crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Me — free!

Tellosh (this part of it) — thick air heavy with sea-water. Triple the sun, a triangle of tiny celestial lights, yellow-green-red. Mount Duku — tall, pointy, black of stone, mantled with green plants, thorned with outcroppings of crystals. Around it the island, around the island the blood-dark sea all shining with waves like bright scales. The familiar home forests of Gemgaru — away. The familiar gems that grow on plants instead of inside rocks — away. The familiar husband and family and friends — away.

But here — myself, four eggs.

Freedom — to write the long letter to Tomolrouc, the whole of my story so far, to wing-brush worry and dread away from him. He had most of the story from Tllith already, but not the freedom part, and so we rejoice in half-measure apart, even if we would rather rejoice in full measure together.

Freedom — To curl around my eggs in a bowl of warm sand. Before I had laid, I dreaded the wish to coil about eggs as a kind of slavery to the demands of incipient motherhood. Now — Joy and rightness.

Scorthmen — rejoicing too. Couatls — in Scorthmen stories, we are rare and beneficient creatures. (Why rare? We live in Gemgaru, and few can bring us here. Why beneficient? Healing spells, I suppose. There is only a single magic native to Tellosh — the summoning and binding of people from Gemgaru.)

Couatls in Thoik stories — common demons — summoned by the ancestors of the Thoiks in many historical stoires. Like me — bound. Like me — angry. Like me — found ways to take revenge when they could. Like me — crushed whatever greatness and magnitude the Thoiks tried to build, using our blood as mortar and our feathers as bricks.

The rebellion of the Thoiks — a hollow bird’s egg struck a heavy blow by a wing. The thoiks — back in the mines with more bruises and cuts than usual. Some — dead. Some huts — burnt. Some blood — scattered.

But the question — will not leave me alone.

So — I ask.

Asked and Answered

Johand: My lady Cleiestis! It is a pleasure to see you flittering about! My men say that you have brought them luck, and I cannot deny it. What brings your brillant polychrome featheration to my office?

Me: This question — it is a rude one. You — have been nothing but kind to me and done me only good turns. So I think of you as humans of great kindness and justice. Their speech — it does not come easily to me. Spells help some. Its grammar — so awkward and twisted-about [Cleiestis's actual word refers to a serpent who has gotten into a position from which motion is not easy. I can't do that myself; not so flexible. -tll].

Johand: We do our best to behave so, Miss Cleiestis, and I trust that you should never have reason to think otherwise. Miss — there is no knowing why he calls me so. I am not — I am married!

Me: But the Dumu Thoiks — do not think so.

Johand: They are savages and barbarians, miss. The cruel, vicious, and lazy remnant of a wicked sorcerous nation of centuries gone.

Me: Is that why you beat them and make them mine so?

Johand: If circumstances were not so dire, miss, we should have nothing to do with them whatever. As it is, there is little time to make all the preparations that must be made. If we explained and negotiated with them and with all hundreds of such folk, we should still be explaining and negotiating when the poisons from the sky render all explanations and negotiations useless. So we use force; we rush matters; we get ready what can be gotten ready. It is, after all, for their own good.

Me: They do not seem to think it is good, to be whipped and beaten and compelled to mine hard.

Johand: And of course it is not, miss, and that’s not the concern really. You have a kind heart, but this is neither time nor situation for kindness.

Me: Why not?

Johand: Surely, when you look at the night sky, you have noticed the absence of Markosh from its usual place in the heavens, and, if your eyes are good, the odd cyanotic-blue nebula that moves quickly from night to night?

Me: The sky of Tellosh — never have I seen it in night, for I was boxed in every night and every day save today. Unlike the sky of Gemgaru is it. We have no triple sun, no clouds.

An explanation — next he made.

Johand: How strange! You must tell me stories of your fairyland … but I depart from my own narrative. For many years, our scientists have known that the mobile celestial body we call Markosh was a world in its own right, whirling around the triple sun just like Tellosh. For a modicum of years, we knew that it supported life of a sort — indeed, creatures of a strong intellect and strict customs. We exchanged a few neighborly messages, but found them cold and uninterested in such chatter.

Well, not many years ago, five of our gentleman-scientists built a levitationary sphere, capable of reflecting the motion of the suns and thereby moving on its own. They made it airtight, and laid in a stock of comestables, many instruments of science, a few good hunting-rifles, and, I am sure, a stock of proper clothing, including an assortment of hats suitable for every situation. And, thus equipped, they crossed the void.

Well, we don’t know precisely what they found there. A few fragmentary message-squirts made it back to Tellosh. As best we understand, their sphere was seized, and the scientists of Markosh worked hard to comprehend its mechanism. For the purpose of building a void-armada of such spheres equipped for conquest — the conquest of Tellosh.

Well, Sir Langregasm and his fellows put a stop to that, of course. They sabotaged a sort of combination generator station and high temple that supplied power to all of Markosh. They took a bit of an unrestrained approach to it, I might add; they started a growing reaction which ended in the destruction of Markosh.

Still, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried, miss, but a world the size of Markosh is not distintegrated in a minute or two. The process took some hours. The Markoshians seemed to think the destruction of their world was a very tit, and nothing would do but that they give us a corresponding tat. So they concocted their own growing reaction. And what did that do, but transmute the wreckage of Markosh into a cloud of nitrostrex or something very like it.

Don’t look so puzzled, Miss. There’s no reason in the world that someone from fairyland should know about nitrostrex. It’s a poisonous vapor: a quadruply-strange version of nitrogen, if I may use such terms. Quite deadly, don’t you know.

They were going to aim the cloud straight at Tellosh. Lord Langregasm evidently chose to ram his void-sphere into their reaction rather than survive and fly back to Tellosh. Jolly good job that he did! As it is, the cloud is on a wobbly course all around the sky, instead of heading here straightaway. We had a decade or so before it landed on Tellosh. Now there are five years left.

Still, our best scientists assure us that, when the nitrostrex comes to Tellosh, there will be a great and terrible dying for a few hours, until the nitrogen in the atmosphere converts the nitrostrex into neatrogen. I’m sorry, miss, there’s no talking about this without the science. Neatrogen enforces orderliness, but it’s not deadly as nitrostrex.

Anyhow, when the cloud comes, anyone in the open who takes a breath of the vapors mixed with air will simply die. In lesser concentrations it causes a slow suffocation and a permanent injury to the lungs.

So we’ve got to get ready for it, miss. In places like Dumu Thoik we’re having the locals dig deep holes, their mines. If they hide in the mines and put wet curtains on all the entrances, and come out in a day or two, they should mostly survive.

We’ve got a more ambitious project or two for Scorthland itself, of course. We’re building vast tents. We don’t want to just save the people of the land, but the animals too, such as we can. Otherwise we’ll be reduced to eating vegetables and insects for all our meals, and that wouldn’t do.

And our men of science have their hopes to build a mighty beam projector to denature the nitrostrex before it comes to us. If we can collect enough perdones for the resonant chamber, and enough of the right metals for the cabling. Save the world with a beam of special light, wouldn’t you know?

So that’s our recent history, miss Cleiestis. A bit frantic, wouldn’t you know. When it’s an emergency one doesn’t always have the best manners. But we’ve got the best intentions, anyhow, as I hope you’ll understand.

Understanding — not easy, but possible.

Me: May I go home?

Johand: I’ll see what can be done.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

“The first bridge is there — mighty Gumdash where the wine-sellers gather — Gumdash, mother of a thousand bridges!” declaimed Xshaothshash. Xshaothshash can be dreadfully loud, perhaps as a consequence of being dreadfully large. Gumdash sprouted off the side of Greatbridge, all covered with towers and vines strung between them.

“How do they stay up?” asked Eric.

“Why should they fall down?” asked Xshaothshash. “That would be rude of them, and highly untraditional!”

“What’s holding them up on the other side?” asked Eric. “Greatbridge is supported by Norshub and Sothshub, you said. Gumdash is supported by Greatbridge on one end, but what at the other?”

“Now I apprehend your query!” said Xshaothshash. “At the other end of Gumdash — I have never been there but I hear the stories of travellers — there are seven great bridges, each with its own towers and palaces, and, of course, further bridges!”

“But there should be another support, a suspension, a buttress, an abutment of some sort,” said Eric. “Something surely must support its weight.”

“Greatbridge supports the weight of Gumdash — of every other bridge!”

A spidersen waved his forelimbs from atop a cart of books. “Excuse me, O human visitor to Ixange! You wish to discover our secrets of bridging, of the strands of inoson woven into brick and metal that support Gumdash? These are great secrets and not to be lightly revealed to mere foreigners! Yet — to you they may be revealed today! Purchase this book, which explains every mysterious secret of construction!”

I glanced my ice-head at the book. It was a marvel! A thousand colors gleamed from its shining covers — I had never seen a book with more than one color, nor one which had, it seemed, been dipped in flexible liquid glass. The lettering was crisp and precise, with none of the ragged edges that are the inevitable child of the printing presses of Yirien.

But it was not the only such marvel the spidersen’s cart was full of them. He had books on as many topics as Ixange has bridges.

  1. Bunfi cuisine!
  2. The entertainments available near Norshub!
  3. The architecture of Gumdash!
  4. The amatory excesses of certain human females!
  5. The contents of the Narbo’s museum!
  6. Bunfi poetry!
  7. How a new bridge is constructed!
  8. The amatory behaviors of human females presented with enthusiastic male badgers!
  9. Bunfi marital celebrations!
  10. The news!
  11. The amatory behaviors of certain popular entertainers!
  12. The amatory behaviors of human females determined to show their high regard for spidersen!
  13. The amatory behaviors of human females with other human females!
  14. The surprising amatory encounter of a female badger and a male shedu!
  15. The astounding amatory behaviors of three human females, and how fresh native fruits are incorporated therein!

(If I had the art to produce books of such beauty and precision, I would, I hope, write miracles of enlightenment — words as perfect and clear as the printing. I would not waste them on so much amatory behavior.)

“No!” thundered Xshaothshash. “You must not purchase this book! This spidersen is Der-dorm-darnu-dapp! A blugstard, a filth-monger, a traitor to the very spans of Ixange, a scoundrel of the first water! Depart, Der-dorm-darnu-dapp! Scuttle off to some domain of iniquity with you!” He roared. The spidersen darted into a cavity in the cart, depressed levers and knobs, and the cart rolled sedately off, impelled by some amazing motive power.

“So, no buying boffled books for toffled tourists?” asked Hditr, very innocently.

“What, what? Nothing of the sort! You are under the protection of Xshaothshash! Buy whatever books you wish! But never from the perfidious, the slime-purveyors, the filth-spawners among booksellers! Here and now approaches the cart of Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo! An honorable spidersen, a marvel of probity, a merchant whose books are full of the attar of cheerful veridity, a merchant who has paid his fees in full! You shall purchase what you wish from him!”

“Shall we…?” murmured Hditr. She inspected the wares of Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo, which were as miraculous as those of Der-Dorm-Darnu-Dapp, and, indeed, about the same, including the book revealing Ixange’s secrets. “I think I understand. I find that I require a copy of Seven Apparently Wholesome Badger Women Attempt To Have An Innocent Chat In A Bathhouse, But The Previous Bather Has Left Behind An Intriguing Apparatus And So All Seven Must Try It Out And From That Point Get Quite Carried Away.”

Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo waved her forelimbs, then clambered up and extracted that publication from the middle of a stack of similarly-named and similarly-themed works. “Madame is quite wise! This one is a masterpiece of literature, full of the wisdom of the ages, and utterly and wholly edifying! From reading it you are likely to attain a degree of peace and harmony not excelled by any book on Ixange!”

Hditr glanced through it. “It certainly depicts some very attractive badgers, giving excellent views of some of their best aspects. Tllith, what are your ears doing?” (They had scrolled up, which is a severe blush.) “Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo, I shall purchase this bumptious book.”

“Certainly!” Sen-Sram-Speng-Songo accepted Hditr’s coins. At a glance from Xshaothshash’s vast left eye, she tossed one to the guardian dragon. “A pleasure doing business with you!”

“You didn’t get the book about Ixange’s secrets…?” I asked.

“Nah,” she whispered. “I’m not after those secrets.”

“Just pornography?” asked Eric. Hditr simply grinned.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

[This seemed like a good Thanksgiving post. -bb]

I (Tllith) did my best to interfere! Like this!

Dear Baron Johand,

Please forgive my omission of the customary salutations of your people. I do not know these salutations. I write on a matter of urgency to yourself and your brigade, and many other people as well.

You should be aware that the Duku Thoik tribes are planning a mass rebellion against you in the next few days. The sorcerer-chieftan Kuur Molk Hasp has used magical wiles to unite and inspire the thoiks, and they are ablaze with eagerness and hope.

The sorcery in question is the summoning of a couatl, named Cleiestis, from the world Gemgaru. I am writing on behalf of Cleiestis. She is being held in a box in the totem to Gongonhong, behind a velvet curtain.

Cleiestis is in all respects a victim here. She and her eggs were kidnapped from their own world, and she is bound by magic and by her eggs as hostages. One was crushed while she watched — what more horrible fate could any parent endure?

If you rip the totem’s curtain aside and reveal her to the thoiks, Kuur’s wicked magic will be revealed too, and the rebellion will fail.

I hope that you find it with your best nature to aid Cleiestis.

Sincerely,
     Tllith of the world Yirien.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. Kidnapped and word-knotted by Kuur Molk Hasp is she, who is worthy of every curse and suffering. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

No! — Three hundred and four hundred — three million and four millions! For — I am out of that cursed box! I am free of Kuur’s cursed words! I am reunited with my eggs!

It is this way:

Kuur — demagoguing, haranging, preaching. Each day — several times he does this. Each time — A hand is thrust beneath my curtain. Each hand — I must heal a thoik, to persuade him to follow Kuur.

Many thoiks — by now, they follow Kuur.

I infer: This time — more than thoiks watched!

[Cleiestis's language has particles indicating states of knowledge. Most of this is told neutrally, as if she observed it. She uses the "I infer" particle to emphasize that she couldn't see what was happening. -bb and tll]

Kuur: Yawb Dwel Bwin, come forth, receive the blessing of Gongonhong!

I infer: A Scorthman steps from behind a hut!

Johand: Kuur, this is disobedience against the Scorth Provisional Authority over Duku. I call upon you to stand down, deliver your totem into my safekeeping, and cease your rabblerousing.

Kuur: You are a brave man, Baron Johand, to come among the Duku Thoik alone, after all you have done to us. You force our hand, this is true. But we will take you now. Thoiks, brave thoiks! This is Baron Johand, who shits forth sufferings upon you all! Take him now!

Johand: I did not come alone. Musketeers, emerge!

A short battle roared and boomed outside of my box. Humans wailed; guns spoke like thunders; swords sang simple songs; humans wailed more.

I infer: Scorthmen — victorious!

Johand: Now, Kuur! Let us see what it is you call Gongonhong!

Johand’s sword-tip — as sharp as any fang, slicing the top of the velvet curtain! Which — fell off the totem. Which — revealed me to thoiks and Scorthmen alike! And — them to me! Easy to tell which was which! Scorthmen — wearing velvet coats and pointed hats in the heat of Duku’s summer! Carrying swords and guns! Thoiks — wearing sensible loincloths! Carrying not much! Many wounded! Some dead!

Thoiks: A couatl! A mystical demon from an astral hell! In the altar of Gongonhong! KUUR! You are no priest, no king! You are sorcerer and wrongulus and blasphemarch! You have conjured a wicked monster from the depths of awful Gemgaru to imitate divine Gongonhong!

A Scorthman: It’s a bloody couatl, like in the stories my nurse used to tell me! I never thought they were real, couatls. I thought they were like leprechauns and daphnillies, just from fairy stories, flitting around sprinking little blessings on poor woodland animals! But there’s a couatl in there, a whole live couatl! Wait ’til I tell my children that I saw a couatl in the flesh with my own eyes. That I bloody rescued one!

Johand — chuckled. Kuur, it seems that your Gongonhong is not quite what you made it out to be, what? Not above a bit of deception to go with your sorcery, are you? Or is it, a bit of sorcery to go with your deception?

Kuur: You are a tun-tuller, a Scorthman. You cannot understand.

Woon: Am I too a tun-tuller and a Scorthman? I know the legends and the old chants! That monster, it is a couatl — a terror of evil and damnation worse than the Scorth! You have brought it to sacred Mount Duku! It must be slain, and you too! Better to slave for shit-hearted Scorthmen than consort with that!

Douk: My father…! What have you done? … It healed my arm. Johand! With your sword, cut my arm from my body now! Better to be maimed than to live with perdition thus attached to me!

Johand: Silence! Silence — did not come. Johand — his pistol boomed. A vassallo burst from the bullet, fragments of fruit showered the thoiks. Silence! Silence — came. This is a matter of Scorthman law. We will take charge of Kuur and the couatl. There will be no hasty maimings or lynchings. We impose the rule of law here, and we will enforce it with swords and guns if we must. Now, disperse!

Thoiks — after slashes with Scorthian whips and Scorthian sabres, they dispersed.

Johand: Now. There is the matter of this Cleiestis that you kidnapped. He reached into the box and pulled me out. I curled around his forearm, and tried to thank him, but Kuur’s words clogged my mouth again. Give back her eggs, free her from your spell.

Kuur: You know nothing of the perils of couatls. If she is unbound she will slay us all.

Johand: I am three heartbeats away from slaying you all myself. I do not take kindly to insurrections and disobedience.

Kuur — Produces forth a few more argues! Johand — Denies them!

Kuur’s chamber of sorcery — We return. In a corner — a box, a jar, are picked from the muddle and litter of items and tools! In the box — three eggs! They look like mine, but are not — are painted! In the jar — four eggs! They are mine!

Kuur’s words of binding — Slip out of my mouth like vomiting! Break on the floor! Gone forever like regular words!

Me: All four eggs of mine! How can this be? Kuur smashed one! Did you take another from my home on Gemgaru?

Kuur: Bah, it is nothing. I smashed a fake egg. It is the ritual in The Green Toad: a fake egg is smashed at the beginning, then all eggs are revealed unharmed at the end. You have no cause to hate me, couatl.

Johand: Aside, perhaps, from the small matter of kidnapping her and her eggs, terrorizing her, enchanting her, and enslaving her.

Kuur: And what do you do, tun-tuller of a Scorthman, heart-shitter lord? You come here, you kill and kidnap some of us, you terrorize us, you bind us with your laws, you enslave us into your mines. Every crime I commit upon a wicked demon, you commit ten thousand fold upon other humans! Any punishment you make upon me, you should inflict upon yourselves ten thousand times as much!

Johand: I see no reason to play at freshman philosophy with you. What we have done, we have done for a very good reason. What you have done, you have done out of wickedness and malice!

Kuur: Malice to the barbarians who come conquering and enslaving us!

Scorthmen — Johand nodded to one. The one struck Kuur with the pommel of his sword. Kuur’s blood fell to the floor, and he held his cheek with blood dripping between his fingers.

Johand: A straightforward response, if not the most sophisticated one philosophically. Now — O couatl, please forgive us for the crudity of your rescue, and for the long delay before it occurred. We were only recently made aware that you had come to grace us, even under these most extremely unfortunate circumstances.

Me: … Thank you. Coiling around his arm! Raised high. The Scorthmen cheered in unison: Tam, Tam, Tamtamterry! To Scorthmen I am no demon. The thoiks who watched, watched in fear. To them I am a demon.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

Every civilized world has a waiting room built like a fortress and a half at the places where the worldways are tied. This is an axiom of the multiverse! Every inter-world travel guide explains it in detail! The reasons are obvious: each world must protect itself against invasions from other worlds, or perhaps world-pirates, or, at the very least, impolite and odiferous tourists.

Evidently Ixange is not civilized, much to my surprise. World-ships pop out of the nothing-at-all and flop into a shallow pool of warm water. A truly massive and extortionately excessive pool; it comes up to my ankles.

As a swamp dragon, I have no fear of such things. It reminds me of home.

This makes me sad. If I had wanted to be at home, I would have stayed at home.

We had to wade a quarter of a mile to the nearest solidity. The second-nearest solidity is, according to the map posted at the landing pond, about five hundred miles away.

If we did feel like walking there, we wouldn’t get lost. The two land masses are massive pylons, supporting a rather large bridge. The pylons and bridge both glow with a soft light, looking much like your basic glowing gemstones in every world, except much much much larger. And taller. The first arch of the bridge was half a mile up — or a whole mile? Two? Anyways, the whole bottom of the first arch is all lit up with crystals too, making a knitted band of soft glow across the half-dark sky.

Above that band, the whole sky is covered with a messy, meshy net of lights. Ixange is bridges bridging between bridges, and all of them glowing. None of them go anywhere save other bridges, because there is nowhere on Ixange other than bridges to go to. Nor are there sun, moon, lumules, stars, on Ixange.

Just bridges.

Introit

Furthermore, there is a wonderful invention, which in all the wide worlds has neither peer nor equal. It is a box, a small room, of metal and glass, ensconced in a tube of metal and glass wherein it may slide freely up and down. The touch of a button will summon it — not instantly — not in the awe-granting style of a magical summoning — but the button will glow with a pleasing and perpetual light to inform you that it has been touched and the room summoned. In time, the metal doors will open on their own, revealing the room that has been summoned. Within, a pointer-adorned wheel lets you choose another location, and, upon turning it, the room will whisk you away to that place.

Eric says that they are called “elevators”, and they are supremely common on his world. Hditr said that they are called “elevators” and that most worlds with useful technology have them. I say that I am a naïve little lizard. Vong said that he would revel in the swamp for a while rather than endure our company a moment longer. I am a swamp creature too, but preferred not to revel with Vong.

At length the elevator doors opened up, and we carried our small and damp luggage up to, oh yes, an entrance fortification.

The entrance fortification peered down at me. Its eyes were the size of badgers, and its fangs the length of worldship cabins, and its tongue forked five ways when it spoke. “Are you a severely deformed midget with two extra heads and a half-flayed back, or are you an infant of those inferior and annoying half-sized species who have taken the word ‘dragon’ for themselves despite being small, weak, and winged, or are you not a dragon at all?”

I peered up at the fortress, spreading my left and right heads as wide as they would go. The fortification was a big scaly creature, four-legged, wingless, single-headed, and all over spikes. It was very, very big. It was two wings short, but, for balance, it was also two heads short. In no other respect was it short. It was very tall. It was otherwise generally shaped like a dragon.

“I’m from Yirien,” I said.

“Ah, I believe that I have read about the discovery a world called Yirien, whereupon some of the natives were multi-headed, and, now that I think of it, some of them were ophidian. I trust that you make neither claim nor pretension of being a real dragon?” said the fortress.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin,” I said. I presume that there’s some sort of Grand Registry Of All The Dragons, and to join it, one must fill out immense paperwork. I don’t just mean “a lot of paperwork.” I mean that each form has got to be five or six yards on a side, or else the full-sized dragons will have trouble writing on it. Oversized creatures, those dragons!

“Then I shall regard you as simply a lizard whose shape, while overly ornate by some measures, is not altogether displeasing, in a childlike sort of way,” said the fortress. “And with this proviso firmly in mind, I am pleased to welcome you to Norshub. Indeed, I — Xshaothshash Shuutsu Vrisoash — appoint myself your protector for the duration of your stay in Norshub!”

“Thank you! … but what is Norshub? I thought we were on Ixange,” I said. Hditr snickered.

“Norshub and its sister pillar Sothshub are the foundation and basis of all Ixange! A vast myriad of bridges sprout upon Ixange, right to left, east to west, hither to yon — but ultimately all of them rest upon Norshub and Sothshub, and the great bridge so eloquently named Greatbridge between them!”

Xshaothshash stepped ponderously aside and waved a massive foreleg. Greatbridge was indeed a very big bridge — I would guess a mile wide — and stretched from Norshub off a very long way, presumably towards Sothshub. It was a bridge connecting nothing to nothing, though, for there was nothing beyond Norshub. People of a dozen species promenaded this way and that on Greatbridge, browsing at hundreds of boutiques and bodegas scattered haphazardly along the bridge. At times they waited for elevators — always to higher bridges, never down to the swampy surface of Isange. The air tasted heavy with perfume, sweat, boiled eggs and the spices sprinkled on them, old mold and the spiky bleach used to scrub it off, the stink of garbage flung from bridges above Greatbridge that landed here rather than the swamp, fresh bread, the ashes of burnt wooden crowns.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; one is crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. Kidnapped and word-knotted by Kuur Molk Hasp is she, who is worthy of every curse and suffering. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Suicide?

Me — the pawn of the child-killer! Three days stuck in a box! Casting healing-spells and knowing-spells for him! Food — he gives me none. Drink — he gives none.

Drying and starving — I think hard, do I want to die of the dry and the starve in a dark box? Yes — It will weaken my enemy. No — I will have no way to get any revenge. No — I will not have a way to help my surviving children.

No — He will just come up with some lie about it. He will say You are not fighting hard enough, you have not driven the Scorth off, the gift of Gongonhong is withdrawn until you do.

So — no. I will not die this way. When the starving and the drying come, I will use a healing spell on myself. Then — in the pain of hungry, in the pain of thirsty, but not starving, but not drying.

Thoik Rebellion

The Dumu Thoik — The people of Kuur. Each fake miracle I work by magic brings more of them to Kuur. Unhappy people! But miracles of fake-Gongonhong bring them joy and energy!

Slaves — we are all slaves here. I am slave of Kuur. The Dumu Thoik are slaves of the Scorth. This is how it is, for I can hear thoik talk with thoik, like this.

Woon: What’s all this nonsense your father is mouth-shitting out about Gongonhong?

Douk: Well, Woon. What do you think of the Scorth, and how they are treating us?

Woon: Your father may be a mouth-shitter, but the Scorth are heart-shitters! What is this they command, that I cannot fish for myself and my wife in the morning, then sleep in a hammock by the ocean-shore and drink fermented vossava juice in the afternoon, and then fuck my wife when she tries to cook the fish for dinner? What is this they command, that I must take their metal tools and dig under Mount Dumu for lishtries and perdones and green shug ore every day? What is this they command, that my son must work in the fields like a woman, until he is big enough to work in the mine?

Douk: By what right do the Scorth rule us?

Woon: What right? They have no right! Are they the grandchildren of any gods? No! Or if they are, they are the grandchildren of the god of squid-fuckers and shit-wearing blubber-boys! Are they here with big blessings of mysteries, like your father? They are not! Are they paying us in valuable goods from far-off Scorthland for our hard work? They are not! All they pay is beatings and shootings if we do not! So they have no right to rule us! None!

Douk: How is it that they rule, then?

Woon: Douk, your father is a clouds-in-head idiot. Are you too a clouds-in-head idiot that you say? I think so from these words! It has not been so many years when the Scorth ships come into the bay! Boom, boom! Their big guns knock Chieftan Reen’s hut down, they break trees, they kill Boin and Hobe, and Neen’s wife, what was her name.

Douk: Ralestra was Neen’s wife.

Woon: See! You remember a thing from that time! Then the Scorth come in heavy little boats to the shore. They fight a heavy war! So many of us die, we cannot count it on three hands. They tell us, ‘We need this and we need that, from under the mountain. You get it for us by mining, or you all die.’ So we are now Dumu Under-Thoik, the People Who Tunnel Mount Dumu.

Douk: Do they treat us well?

Woon: Douk, are you forgetting the last days, when they beat you for arguing with the shaft-boss? They are the worst way of treating us! When their mother gives them birth, she does not birth them from the joy-hole, but from the nasty-hole! If the tribe does not make its digging-quota four weeks in a row, they kill the man who digs the worst! Thus died Moin who sang so well, and Heem who would give you a blow job if you gave him fermented vossava juice! And every month the quota gets bigger, bigger, bigger! And do we get any good from this? No we do not! They say that the holes we dig will be our reward!”

Douk: Why do we not fight back any more?

Woon: They have guns and metal swords, we have fishing-spears and sharp sticks. Who they want to kill, they can kill, even the chieftan. Who we want to kill, we make say ‘ow, ow, a Dumu Thoik has poked me with a stick.’

Douk: We have our gods.

Woon: We do not have our gods! With a cannon — Boom! Boom! — the big totems are broken to splinters! With a sword-tip up my ass, they make me carry the little totems to the plaza. Then they have a god bonfire! Do any gods come? No! No gods come!

Douk: Gongonhong has come.

Woon: Gongonhong was exploded to splinters with the other gods!

Douk: He got better. He came to the idol my father made. Now he works miracles from behind the jacket of the Scorth baron who shot him, and he promises us victory over the Scorth.

Woon: Maybe, maybe. Maybe your father is a mouth-shitter today like always.

Douk: If you do not fight against the Scorth, you will be their slave for ever.

Woon: Oh, I fight, I fight, when everyone fights! I am tired of these heart-shitter Scorth! I hate mining! And if Gongonhong is back, that’s just the fish’s cheeks to me.

Douk: We will all fight at the command of Gongonhong, through my father. We will take the picks and mattocks from mining, with our arms as strong from mining as womens’ arms are from farming, and we will break the swords and guns of the Scorth, and we will break the Scorth themselves. And they will die, and all will be as in the old days.

Woon: With your father as chieftan!

Douk: With my father as liberator, as high priest and grandson of Gongonhong. With my father as chieftan, but as a devout priest-chieftan as in the oldest days, not a heavy-ruling chieftan like Chieftan Reen. We have had enough of heavy rulers.

Woon: We have, we have. And we’ll learn to smash them with picks and mattocks — Scorth for sure, and your father for maybe if he doesn’t leave off being such a mouth-shitter and wrongulus.

Douk: My father was not the best, yes, but now he is the high priest of Gongonhong, and now he is the best.

Woon: We’ll see about that. We’ll fight behind him, and if he’s a good general and makes us all free, we’ll let him be chieftan. And if he’s a good chieftan, he can be chieftan as long as he likes.

Douk: That is precisely what Gongonhong commands.

Woon: I still dunno why you aren’t becoming chieftan, Douk.

Douk: I am my father’s loyal son. If he is a bad chieftan, perhaps he will choose to abdicate in my favor. But he will be a good chieftan, I say. And we must kill every Scorth and drive them away before any thoik is chieftan.

Woon: Killing every Scorth, now there’s a good thing to do! Let’s go! What are we waiting for?

Douk: We are waiting to get every thoik ready, knowing the signals, ready to follow my father. If we start today, we are a disorganized mess and the Scorth kill us easily. If we start tomorrow, all together, they will kill some of us, but they will not kill us all.

Woon: Well, now you’re talking sense, Douk. I’ll go get my brothers and my cousins and my blow-friends. We’ll be organized, and ready to go when you give the word — or even when your father does!

Douk: It is good, my friend. It is good, and soon it will be very good.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

“Tell us about you,” I said to Eric.

“I told Hditr,” he said.

“Yeah, but you didn’t tell the lugubrious and lanky-locked lizard,” said Hditr. “And we’ve got a couple more dullery days before we get to Ixange. I say everyone will be happier if you tell her three times, once to each of her hideous yet helpful heads.” I gave her my best hurt look — big eyes, drooping ears, half of one tongue-tip out of the corner of one mouth — and she amended that to, “Um … heroically helpful heads?”

“Once is enough,” I said.

“Well, there’s really not that much to say. I grew up in the Nisei camp in Indiana until President Clinton closed them.” said Eric. “Then I went to Case Western Reserve for undergrad, then MIT for grad school in chemistry, and switched to physics after the first semester. I was there only a couple years, and then I got killed.”

I stared at him in triplicate.

“… what?” he demanded.

“Are you going to explain those words, or do I have to ask «Language»?”

“OK, OK, I’ll explain.” He did a terrible job explaining, but between him and Hditr and «Language» I made a little sense out of it.

Nisei Camp: His grandparents mostly came from one country, called Japan, but they moved to another country, called Usa. Japan and Usa were not on very friendly terms. Whenever they had an actual war, which was quite often if not usually very martial, the government of Usa would round up all the Japanese humans living in Usa they could find and put them in internment camps, called Nisei camps. The camps were big towns or small cities, and very tidy.

Aum Shinrikyo: The state religion of Japan. Wants to start the apocalypse.

Apocalypse: The uncovering or revelation of a hidden meaning, especially a meaning that was hidden from all people. It will also destroy the world. The hidden meaning seems to be “You are all mortal.” I don’t get why this was hidden, since, um, everyone is mortal anyways and ought to know it, right?

Japan: One of the imperial powers of Eric’s world. It rules about a quarter of the world. Most of that space is water — uninhabited water. Humans are the only species on Eric’s world (or maybe the only intelligent species — I never got that straight). Humans don’t like water very much, except when they’re being imperial, in which case it’s just the thing to cause all sorts of wars. Also, something about fish.

Usa: One of the imperial powers of Eric’s world. It rules about a third of the world. Japan and Usa imperial at each other a lot, but not very seriously. If they did it seriously, everyone would die. Which is what Aum Shinrikyo actually wants, but they want it done right, and a massive war would do it wrong, so they don’t have massive wars.

Indiana: A region in the middle-ish of Usa. Famed for its burial mounds, its corn, and its oval of dramatic torture where humans are strapped to machines, spun around and around and around, and often explode into flames and die.

President Clinton: A temporary king of Usa, known for feeling his subjects’ pain and bosoms, and making peace with Japan several times.

closed: The camps were surrounded by walls and barbed wire when people lived in them, so they couldn’t leave. When they were closed, the walls and barbed wire were removed and the people living in them could leave. This might be considered “opening” in many other contexts.

Case Western Reserve: A school which is (1) not in a case, and (2) not to the west of very much, and (3) not in reserve. It has carriages for moving students around, which are called ‘Greenies’ because they are blue. It is where humans discovered that there are no actual real directions in their universe, just fake ones. This was very important, especially to Eric because physics, and the speed of light in a vacuum is going on too.

undergrad; grad school: Two episodes of schooling.

MIT: Another school. It’s not in a case, and very to the east, and not in reserve, so it’s not called “Case Western Reserve”. It is infinitely long, and has a giant mammal’s breast at one end, and is very full of science.

“I don’t know what’s going on there now,” said Eric.

Hditr was brushing her tail by this time. “I dunno, have Tllith nip out and nab you a newspaper,” she said.

So I did! When one is between worlds, it is reasonably easy to reach a world that one has a suitable connection to — including, say, a ghost of a person who used to live there. By “reasonably easy” I mean “I managed to get the ghost of the front page of a newspaper and keep it here for nearly a minute.”

Boston Globe
March 13, 2003

Despite the best efforts of the Connecticut National Guard and remaining Navy and Coast Guard warships, the space monster Vozan was not stopped at Mystic. Charleston, Naragansett, and Newport are presumed to be destroyed. The governor of Connecticut has urged the evacuation of all remaining residents of coastal areas, up to thirty miles inland.

“What is he saying?” asked Portsmouth resident Karen Blunn. “Thirty miles inland is right on the edge of the curgee flowers! I’d rather get drowned in one of Vozan’s tidal glacier waves! At least that’s a quick way to die!”

“Me, I’m going to take my old fishing boat Naragansett Nell and see if I can’t get across to Montauk,” said Portsmouth fisherman Billy Norbuth. “If I’m fast I’ll get around Vozan. I’ll just have to take my chances with the flux bouncers.”

“I’m sorry, Eric. I don’t understand most of it, but that doesn’t sound very good,” I said.

Eric did not look either very happy or very informed. “I’ve been dead two years? It seemed like only a few weeks! And what’s going on there? What’s Vozan? What are curgee flowers? What are flux bouncers?”

“It’s your world. You should know, shouldn’t you?” I tried again with «Language» — just a translation spell. “That’s odd. Nobody is using any of those words on Earth.”

“Well, what are they calling those things now?” Eric asked.

“No answer on that either.”

Hditr frowned. “What’s the translation of the number ‘one’?”

“… Still no answer. It’s almost as if there’s no language being used there.”

I helpfully asked, “Was that the apocalypse that Aum Shinrikyo wanted?”

Eric said, “I don’t think so. I don’t know much of Aum Shinrikyo’s doctrines. You did not want to be seen being interested in them, if you were Japanese-American.” (Which ought to be: “Japanese-Usavian” or something like that.) He moaned, “Everyone’s dead!”

Hditr shrugged. “Like you. I guess that’s why you got a new death god.”

Eric curled up and wailed for most of the rest of the day, and was inconsolable. As one approach to getting him to uncurl, I tried to send notes to an Eric’s-home-world-like world. That worked well, and now I have a two-way writing-spell that may last for months or years, to … somewhere.

So that’s why I’m writing to you! I’ve told my story, so far. Where have I told it to? Who lives there? What can you say about the apocalypse on Eric’s world?

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; one is crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. Kidnapped and word-knotted by Kuur Molk Hasp is she, who is worthy of every curse and suffering. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

My prison box — Contained in the Gongonhong totem, having never left it since it was put therein yesterday. With totem, carried by Kuur’s son and another to the outside. Swaying as it was carried, waving as it was moved. No treetop in a storm has ever seemed less steady than this totem, nor is there a branch to coil around in the prison.

Kuur: Dumu Thoik! Now I speak to all Dumu Thoik! I, Kuur Molk Hasp, of the family of the ancient kings of Dumu Thoik! Gongonhong himself is the founder of my family line, and through an unbroken line of father to son I am the son’s son of Gongonhong!

Yult: Kuur! You are a no-good lame-leg fugg-bagg! Shut up with your boasting and your calling! Most of us have to work in the morning! The voice of Yult is deep and growly and full of anger.

Kuur: Yult! This is how I know his name. In no way am I boasting! Gongonhong himself visited me this afternoon!

Yult: Kuur! Your stupid head is maybe as broken as your limpy leg! Did you see Gongonhong in your beer? Or in the torch-water that the Scorth give?

Kuur: Gongonhong arrived in a transcendental glow. He veiled his face in incense-smoke, so that I should not be burned. He gave me instructions, as a paternal grandfather instructs a grandson! He gave me instructions to communicate to all the tribes!

Yult: I can hear these famous-stupid instructions now. Gongonhong says to you, Kuur! I command you to drink more beer! I command you to fuck other mens’ wives! I command all the tribes to bring you beer! I command all the tribes to bring you women! Kuur, you are a stupid bomp, and full of your tricks. We are busy men, we have to mine for the Scorth. We do not need another master to boss us around.

Kuur: Yult, you shall throw yourself to the ground and beg for the forgiveness of Gongonhong when you know the truth. And I shall grant it, for the will of Gongonhong is for the good of all the tribes, and no harm shall come to any shoik on Mount Dumu by the will of Gongonhong. The opposite! Good shall come to every shoik on Mount Dumu by the will of Gongonhong!

Yult: What good is there in your beer-bubble imagine god, or his words?

Kuur: Yult, you have a heavy bruise on your arm.

Yult: Yes, stupid Kuur, I have a heavy bruise on my arm, and it hurts like a cliff-sheep kicked it. In the mines there are many ways to get hurt, in accidents from the living rock, or punishments from the Scorth. If you were not a lazy-ludd you would be mining yourself and you would know this.

Kuur: Gongonhong brings gifts of ancestral grace to every shoik of the Dumu Thoik! To you he brings a granting of healing! Stretch your arm past the velvet panel on this totem, and you will be bruised no more!

Yult: What’s back there?

Kuur: A mystery shared between myself and my paternal grandfather Gongonhong! For you — all you need to know is, a single finger inside the veil, and you shall be healed!

Yult: Kuur! I make you this bet! I shall try this thing! But if I stick a finger inside and am not instantly healed by Gongonhong, I shall clout you with a mattock until you have three bruises each as bad as this, and you must shut up!

Kuur: Yult! I accept your bet! But if you are healed, you must hear the speaking of Gongonhong as he gave it to me, and you must obey it!

Yult: I accept these terms, inasmuch as your vision of Gongonhong is a phantom of beer bubbles and drug-smoke.

A smashed-tipped finger — stuck into my box under the curtain! I did not want to heal it, but I had to heal it or choke on words.

Yult: Kuur! What is this? My bruises fade like water sinking into hot sand! My pain departs like the yaksha-bird when it hears a sound! My fingertip that was flat from a crushing between rocks, it is as round as my dick!

Kuur: Are you healed, O my clan-cousin?

Yult: I am healed, O my clan-cousin — O my headman and high priest! This is a miracle of Gongonhong, such as has not been seen on the slopes of Mt. Dumu in centuries!

Kuur: It is as I told unto you. Rather, it is as Gongonhong told unto me.

Yult: Gongonhong! Gongonhong is back, with his power and his fire! What does he wish?

Kuur: Gongonhong is back, with his power and his fire. He knows the whips and guns of the Scorth! He deplores the slaveries and mining they have given to every shoik who can mine! He deplores their takings, their beatings, their shootings, their laws! He commands that the traditional ways shall be restored. He commands that the Scorth be killed and driven away. He commands that the Dumu Thoik be restored to their old ways, their happy ways! This is the will of Gongonhong! And we are to perform it!

Yult: This is the beneficient will of Gongonhong! And we shall perform it!

Three or four other voices — Echoed that.

This performance — we repeated several times, with variations. Seven or eight voices answered the second time. Fifteen or sixteen the third. Thirty-one or thirty-two the fourth. And after that the voices were a thunder of chanting: Gongonhong! Gongonhong! Kuur! Kuur! Kuur Molk Hasp!

Villain entire — a one who kills children of an alien species without conscience, is one who cheats his own people.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; one is crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. Kidnapped and word-knotted by Kuur Molk Hasp is she, who is worthy of every curse and suffering. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

The box — small, too small! Yet I could not leave it. Dingy, so dirty! Yet I could not leave it. Empty, and dull! Kuur’s words — their clogginess keeps me from writing to Tomolrouc or any from Gemgaru! So I write more to you, Tllith; to Xhengviades the terrible dragon; to Oioius the mad shedu; to my other pen-friends of divers species. Humans, couatls, spidersen — these I may not write to.

Nor — may I dictate messages to be sent to them.

Tomolrouc — my poor husband! What an agony of terror and despair he must be in! How having not the slightest idea what has become of me must be a hammering by axes upon his bare wings!

Choking — Nothing more will the words of Kuur permit me to say. Two hours is what that paragraph took me to write. Each single letter — after its writing, I must struggle the spell of Kuur away from giving me the choking.

Time — what good is it to me now? With a box, it is my prison.

Kuur — After much time, he came! With Douk, he lifted the box, carried to another room, raised high, slid forward until it stopped with a boom!

Douk: The mystery box is in place, my father. The totem is complete. Ugly, but complete.

Kuur: Beauty is wasted upon a totem of war, my son. It should be terrible and fearsome.

Douk: Beauty is always far from your carving and your painting, my father. It is terrible. Fearsome, not so much. Gongonhong, with a mouth made of black velvet?

Kuur: That is not just any black velvet, Douk. It was the velvet jacket of Baron Johand of Scorth.

Douk: So we’re supposed to imagine Gongonhong chewing up some Scorthian or other, and spitting out his formalwear? My father, have you truly thought this through? The people will not rally around a silly totem.

Kuur: My son, there are mysteries here beyond your knowing. The people will not rally around any totem, no matter how pretty. They will rally around this totem because it is powerful. It healed your burns and infections, my son! It can heal a hundred, a thousand, upon my command! And I, who command a totem full of true power … I shall have the worship of the people, I shall become a mighty chieftan, I shall become the axe in the hand of some God of War!

Douk: Will the people follow you, truly? You are the nephew of a chieftan, but an old and deposed chieftan, about whom the stories are not good. And it is said that you perform sorceries and wicked magic. That you entered the forbidden chambers in the old temple, and uncovered the well where things are sunken that are best left sunken, and fished therein. The rumors about you are dark, my father. I do not know you any more.

Yes! — I wanted to shout it! But could not.

Kuur: I care nothing for how people think of me. If I drive the Scorthians off and it costs me my life and honor and soul, I will think the price cheap. I am a hard man in a hard situation. I will be so hard that Scorth breaks their teeth on me!

Douk: You do not deny the stories…?

Kuur: I care nothing for the stories. I have a totem. It has powers both visible and invisible. Let the rumors about me be what they will. It is the totem of Gongonhong, who is purifying fire, not darkness. Gongonhong, not Kuur Molk Hasp, shall be the center — the ruler!

Douk: Yet you shall profit.

Kuur: I may profit, if I live. What of that? Better that I do than the King of Scorth! And you shall inherit whatever remains, my son. Keep your name and your honor bright, and you shall be a greater chieftan than my uncle. Now depart! Show the miners that the punishments of Scorth can be wiped away by Gongonhong!

The two embrace. The son departs. The father grinds and paints upon his totem. My box-prison is on top the totem, and sways sickeningly with each touch.

There is no escape for me here save my pen-pals. Write back, dear Tllith, and if new correspondents arise for you, let them write to me as well.

And when I (Tllith) got this, I did my very best to find Tomolrouc with «Language» spells. Not surprisingly I couldn’t. The only way I can write to Cleiestis is that her gods grant her something like the epistolary spell too. But that means that other priests on Gemgaru have that spell! I sent three dozen letters to them, telling Cleiestis’s full story. Finally one of them answered that they had given five copies of it to Tomolrouc and I should stop spamming their whole ecclesiastical hierarchy with it.

Tomolrouc answered through me. The poor snake … I will not quote his letter, which was for Cleiestis alone. And she’s enchanted not to reply to him per se. Her next letter was telling me all about how much she loves him, how much she misses him, and such things. I got the point and sent that — once! — to a priest.

I’d go to Tellosh to try to rescue her, except Tellosh isn’t one of the Ninety Worlds and nobody I’ve asked has any idea how to get there. I could get to Gemgaru of course, but that’s a long way off from me, and I don’t know what I could do there that the couatl priests couldn’t. (Hditr and Eric neither.)

Maybe one of them will figure something out. They are searching their old books and stories for any sort of useful clue. They say that they have never gone from Gemgaru to Tellosh — that a portal may be opened from Tellosh, but not Gemgaru.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

After lentil stew was thoroughly devoured, a single question remained — single, but burningly, devastatingly important.

“What recreations are available on this world-boat, to pass the time between here and Ixange?” I asked.

“Well, the number of recreations just doubled when you woke up,” said Hditr.

“We could have talked more to Vong,” noted Eric.

Hditr shook her head. “I am not talking to Vong any more. I’ve been digging exclamation points out of my ears since this trip started anyhow. And insults, too.”

“So what have you been doing?” I asked.

“Eric here refuses to play cards or finger-fonger me. Some stupid excuse about being intangible, makes the embarrassed baldie. So we’ve just been talking,” said Hditr.

I clambered onto the table, pointed one head at Hditr and one at Eric, and tucked my left head under my wing for a fractional nap. “I’ll help with that! Where do you come from, Eric?”

He waves his hands about helplessly, passing them through the table. “I talked with Captain I-can’t-pronounce-it about that. It’s not one of the Sixty Worlds. It might be one of the Ninety, according to the Captain. There are over a hundred of them that haven’t been explored very well.”

I waggled my right-head ears. “That doesn’t math right.”

“That’s what I said too,” said Eric. “But the numbers of worlds aren’t exact. The Thirty Worlds are twenty-eight in number. The Sixty Worlds are those plus eighteen more. Then the Ninety Worlds are those plus a couple hundred.”

“The couple hundred are the Lotsmore?” I asked. “That’s what the badgers called Yirien when they showed up there.”

Hditr nodded. “Exactly. The eighteen more are Marsep’s Discovery, because, um, Marsep discovered eleven of them. We badgers aren’t big on getting precise terminology stuck up our whoffynasties, if you know what I mean and I hope you do ’cause I am not about to explain. Drullguur is one of those. Your yummy, yummy Yirien is a Lotsmore. Ixange is a Lotsmore too. I don’t know a lot about it, except that it’s the home of Idol of «Nudibranch» and has a very famous bridge or two. I do want to do measurements a lot more carefully when you get that sigil. We got some confusing results from «Cuisine». No big blop of blue-boiled blame to you. We were kinda busy not dying from falling into a boiling ocean there.”

“I’m not getting «Nudibranch»,” I said.

“What?? Whyever not??” Hditr seemed personally offended.

I huffed, and waggled my ears. “I’ve only got space for six or maybe eight on my wings, even if I sorcery them to shreds. I could get another four or maybe six small ones on my ears, if I don’t mind being deaf and unable to make important gestures and having those domains weakly ’cause the sigils are small. I suppose I could spare a leg or two. That’s sixteen at most. There are eighty-something domains.”

Hditr shook her head. “A hundred and two and counting, and that’s even if you count stupid ones like «Zucchini» and «Umbrella» and «Gazebo» and … most of them are pretty stupid really. But «Nudibranch»! «Nudibranch» is not stupid! I will think of why in a minute, after I learn what a nudibranch is!”

I ignored her. “Even if I want to totally ruin my body to be the best sigil sorcerer ever — which I do not! — I’m going to have to be choosy. And I can’t think of any good reason to choose «Nudibranch».”

Hditr whuffled and snortled. “There’s an excellent reason around here. I shall think of it in a thickilling thecond!”

I curled my ears rather selfconsciously, while I still had them. (I don’t plan to get rid of them!) “They are not nearly as cute as snail cream puffs. I am not sure what else I will pick. Perhaps «Tea» and «Steam» as my next two.”

“You must really like tea,” said Hditr.

“It’s nice, but I’m trying to be practical here,” I said.

Eric smiled. “What, running the world’s — multiverse’s — best tea ceremony ever?”

I snorted. “Claiming territory! Holding territory! I don’t know about you, but my species gets awfully territorial when we grow up. Especially females, which is what I’m kind of leaning towards.”

“How does tea help with territory?” asked Hditr.

“Wait, you get to choose which sex you are?” asked Eric.

I answered them both at once and nibbled lentil soup with my spare head, and they complained about it, so I did it again, one at a time. “I get to pick. Once. It’s a special sort of skin-shedding, and if I do it above water I turn male over the next year, and if I do it under water I turn female. I’m not physically ready for it yet — maybe a year or two — and I’m not really looking forward to it. Females get bigger territories so I’ll probably go for that. But they’re more tightly stuck to their territories, especially if there are eggs. I like rambling, but I don’t think I get to do it after I pick, either way.” Talking about this always makes me sad.

Eric and Hditr nodded, said a few friendly but clueless things (“Well, we’ll be glad to ramble ’round the rumple with you while you can”), and did not understand.

So I switched topic. “And the other answer is, most of the places I’m likely to get territory are swampy. If I get one and plant it with aromatic herbs, I’ll be able to boil any puddle with «Cuisine» and «Tea», and then have clouds of «Tea» «Steam» to use as weapons, allies, traps.”

Hditr grinned. “Oho! «Tea» and «Steam» and «Cuisine» do make sense together.” She said to Eric, “Domain magic is not really all that strong. You’ve seen Tllith do some pretty nice things, but I expect that’s close to her-or-maybe-his limit. I don’t think any domain mage can toss fireballs and lightning bolts the way you were talking about from your games. But a spell that comes from two domains is much stronger than one from one, and Tllith might get threesies even.”

“So no huge spectacular magic?” said Eric. “If I’ve got to give up on technology, I want to see lighning bolt wands and invocations of massive ugly demons. I’ll be upset if there’s nothing impressive around.”

“I wouldn’t say there’s a nippering nothing impressive. There’s spectacular natural magic — floating cities, waterfalls of fire, cloth tornadoes, stuff like that. There are powerful wizards. The Wizard of Trom turned Dovercramp from a badger like me into a living catapult which set rocks on fire, so they landed as splashes of boiling lava, when Um-Dulci-Dhenk tried to conquer Trom. That was pretty big magic I guess. No domain mage could do that.”

I nodded two heads. “I couldn’t do anything like that. But could the Wizard of Trom do that on Yirien?”

Hditr laughed. “The Wizard of Trom couldn’t do a thumbweight thing outside of Trom. The edge of the city wall was the edge of his power. I hear it’s worse nowadays. He’s got this formal garden next to his manse in Trom, and now that’s the only place he can actually work magic any-the-more.”

“That’s why I want domain magic. It works anywhere,” I said.

“Well, to be perfectly and pricklily precise, I want to be perfectly and punctiliously precise about how well it works anywhere,” said Hditr.

“But you want territory, so you’re not going to be living just anywhere, you’re going to be living in some tea-flavored swamp on Yirien? Why don’t you want to be a wizard?” asked Eric.

“You can’t just decide to become a wizard,” said Hditr. “A few people are born that way, or strobble into it somehow. Being a priest is almost as hard. You can study and pray and train all you like, but if you can’t interest a god, you’re just a bookworm with a bad bitchitude. Domain magic is the one people can just go and pick up — and that’s for people who think it’s a good trade to lose an arm or leg for the power to extract honey-catsup that’s been stirred into stew.”

“Was it hard for you to get priest magic?” I asked.

“Me? Nah. Second month in seminary, we went on a tour of the nearby gods, and Hythace put a necklace of lightning around my neck at first sight.”

Eric and I stared at her. He said, “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

“I don’t either,” I said. “That never happens on Yirien.”

“Hythace, she’s my patron goddess, right? She’s this big black mountain with a perpetual thunderstorm around her top. Pretty talkative for a goddess, even. ‘Course she can’t talk to nobody but clicky-brained clergy. Anyways, she put her mark on me right away. Still got it.” Hditr loosened her tunic. The fur around her neck had been burned to silver.

“Why can’t talk to anyone but clergy?” asked Eric.

“Well, she writes stuff in lighting in her thunderstorm. Gone in an instant. But her clergy can cast memory spells. We use ‘em to remember what she wrote.”

Eric tried and failed to rub his eyes. “She sounds very different than the god I met.”

Hditr shrugged. “Eh, gods. They’re all different. They’re all crazy, too.”

“Isn’t that a little bit blasphemous?” asked Eric.

“If an anti-bishop can’t blaspheme her own goddess, who can?” asked Hditr, apparently seriously.

“I still don’t get what’s an anti-bishop,” said Eric.

“A bishop is a priest in charge of a whole district. Administration, rituals, public dignity, lots of underlings, order, pomp, circumstance, professionalism. Also protecting the honor of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, ensuring revenue, concealing clerical misdeeds, all that stuff. You can’t see me doing most of that, can you? I’ve got as much pomp as a pimp in a pump, and I’m the one performing those clerical misdeeds what need covering up. Wound up in bed with the bishop’s wife of Snorth, I did.”

Eric said, “You said husband, last time.”

“Oh, I slept all slorts of slippery sluttery spouses, I did, and caste be curste” said Hditr. “Anyhow, nobody could imagine some unpolished barmaid’s daughter in charge of a district, least of all me. But neither could they shove me in a corner and ignore me, not after Hythace marked on me and kept calling me over to chat.”

“What did you chat about?” I asked. The gods of Yirien are few in number, and grimly silent.

“Whatever I wanted. Which was sometimes who I was boinking at the time — not her favorite topic, what with her being a ‘her’ only by convention and all — and sometimes was how magic varies from place to place. That, it turned out, is what she was interested in too. So she picked someone who could move around and didn’t mind pissing everyone off with questions to find out. And here I am.”

“What have you found out?”

“I have found out that I have as much of a clue as a clabbered clam, and I gotta investigate everything a whole lot more.” Hditr got herself a chalice of the world-ship’s nasty coffee, lapped at it, and made a face. «Cuisine» and I made it taste good, and she grinned at us.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

After lentil stew was thoroughly devoured, a single question remained — single, but burningly, devastatingly important.

“What recreations are available on this world-boat, to pass the time between here and Ixange?” I asked.

“Well, the number of recreations just doubled when you woke up,” said Hditr.

“We could have talked more to Vong,” noted Eric.

Hditr shook her head. “I am not talking to Vong any more. I’ve been digging exclamation points out of my ears since this trip started anyhow. And insults, too.”

“So what have you been doing?” I asked.

“Eric here refuses to play cards or finger-fonger me. Some stupid excuse about being intangible, makes the embarrassed baldie. So we’ve just been talking,” said Hditr.

I clambered onto the table, pointed one head at Hditr and one at Eric, and tucked my left head under my wing for a fractional nap. “I’ll help with that! Where do you come from, Eric?”

He waves his hands about helplessly, passing them through the table. “I talked with Captain I-can’t-pronounce-it about that. It’s not one of the Sixty Worlds. It might be one of the Ninety, according to the Captain. There are over a hundred of them that haven’t been explored very well.”

I waggled my right-head ears. “That doesn’t math right.”

“That’s what I said too,” said Eric. “But the numbers of worlds aren’t exact. The Thirty Worlds are twenty-eight in number. The Sixty Worlds are those plus eighteen more. Then the Ninety Worlds are those plus a couple hundred.”

“The couple hundred are the Lotsmore?” I asked. “That’s what the badgers called Yirien when they showed up there.”

Hditr nodded. “Exactly. The eighteen more are Marsep’s Discovery, because, um, Marsep discovered eleven of them. We badgers aren’t big on getting precise terminology stuck up our whoffynasties, if you know what I mean and I hope you do ’cause I am not about to explain. Drullguur is one of those. Your yummy, yummy Yirien is a Lotsmore. Ixange is a Lotsmore too. I don’t know a lot about it, except that it’s the home of Idol of «Nudibranch» and has a very famous bridge or two. I do want to do measurements a lot more carefully when you get that sigil. We got some confusing results from «Cuisine». No big blop of blue-boiled blame to you. We were kinda busy not dying from falling into a boiling ocean there.”

“I’m not getting «Nudibranch»,” I said.

“What?? Whyever not??” Hditr seemed personally offended.

I huffed, and waggled my ears. “I’ve only got space for six or maybe eight on my wings, even if I sorcery them to shreds. I could get another four or maybe six small ones on my ears, if I don’t mind being deaf and unable to make important gestures and having those domains weakly ’cause the sigils are small. I suppose I could spare a leg or two. That’s sixteen at most. There are eighty-something domains.”

Hditr shook her head. “A hundred and two and counting, and that’s even if you count stupid ones like «Zucchini» and «Umbrella» and «Gazebo» and … most of them are pretty stupid really. But «Nudibranch»! «Nudibranch» is not stupid! I will think of why in a minute, after I learn what a nudibranch is!”

I ignored her. “Even if I want to totally ruin my body to be the best sigil sorcerer ever — which I do not! — I’m going to have to be choosy. And I can’t think of any good reason to choose «Nudibranch».”

Hditr whuffled and snortled. “There’s an excellent reason around here. I shall think of it in a thickilling thecond!”

I curled my ears rather selfconsciously, while I still had them. (I don’t plan to get rid of them!) “They are not nearly as cute as snail cream puffs. I am not sure what else I will pick. Perhaps «Tea» and «Steam» as my next two.”

“You must really like tea,” said Hditr.

“It’s nice, but I’m trying to be practical here,” I said.

Eric smiled. “What, running the world’s — multiverse’s — best tea ceremony ever?”

I snorted. “Claiming territory! Holding territory! I don’t know about you, but my species gets awfully territorial when we grow up. Especially females, which is what I’m kind of leaning towards.”

“How does tea help with territory?” asked Hditr.

“Wait, you get to choose which sex you are?” asked Eric.

I answered them both at once and nibbled lentil soup with my spare head, and they complained about it, so I did it again, one at a time. “I get to pick. Once. It’s a special sort of skin-shedding, and if I do it above water I turn male over the next year, and if I do it under water I turn female. I’m not physically ready for it yet — maybe a year or two — and I’m not really looking forward to it. Females get bigger territories so I’ll probably go for that. But they’re more tightly stuck to their territories, especially if there are eggs. I like rambling, but I don’t think I get to do it after I pick, either way.” Talking about this always makes me sad.

Eric and Hditr nodded, said a few friendly but clueless things (“Well, we’ll be glad to ramble ’round the rumple with you while you can”), and did not understand.

So I switched topic. “And the other answer is, most of the places I’m likely to get territory are swampy. If I get one and plant it with aromatic herbs, I’ll be able to boil any puddle with «Cuisine» and «Tea», and then have clouds of «Tea» «Steam» to use as weapons, allies, traps.”

Hditr grinned. “Oho! «Tea» and «Steam» and «Cuisine» do make sense together.” She said to Eric, “Domain magic is not really all that strong. You’ve seen Tllith do some pretty nice things, but I expect that’s close to her-or-maybe-his limit. I don’t think any domain mage can toss fireballs and lightning bolts the way you were talking about from your games. But a spell that comes from two domains is much stronger than one from one, and Tllith might get threesies even.”

“So no huge spectacular magic?” said Eric. “If I’ve got to give up on technology, I want to see lighning bolt wands and invocations of massive ugly demons. I’ll be upset if there’s nothing impressive around.”

“I wouldn’t say there’s a nippering nothing impressive. There’s spectacular natural magic — floating cities, waterfalls of fire, cloth tornadoes, stuff like that. There are powerful wizards. The Wizard of Trom turned Dovercramp from a badger like me into a living catapult which set rocks on fire, so they landed as splashes of boiling lava, when Um-Dulci-Dhenk tried to conquer Trom. That was pretty big magic I guess. No domain mage could do that.”

I nodded two heads. “I couldn’t do anything like that. But could the Wizard of Trom do that on Yirien?”

Hditr laughed. “The Wizard of Trom couldn’t do a thumbweight thing outside of Trom. The edge of the city wall was the edge of his power. I hear it’s worse nowadays. He’s got this formal garden next to his manse in Trom, and now that’s the only place he can actually work magic any-the-more.”

“That’s why I want domain magic. It works anywhere,” I said.

“Well, to be perfectly and pricklily precise, I want to be perfectly and punctiliously precise about how well it works anywhere,” said Hditr.

“But you want territory, so you’re not going to be living just anywhere, you’re going to be living in some tea-flavored swamp on Yirien? Why don’t you want to be a wizard?” asked Eric.

“You can’t just decide to become a wizard,” said Hditr. “A few people are born that way, or strobble into it somehow. Being a priest is almost as hard. You can study and pray and train all you like, but if you can’t interest a god, you’re just a bookworm with a bad bitchitude. Domain magic is the one people can just go and pick up — and that’s for people who think it’s a good trade to lose an arm or leg for the power to extract honey-catsup that’s been stirred into stew.”

“Was it hard for you to get priest magic?” I asked.

“Me? Nah. Second month in seminary, we went on a tour of the nearby gods, and Hythace put a necklace of lightning around my neck at first sight.”

Eric and I stared at her. He said, “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

“I don’t either,” I said. “That never happens on Yirien.”

“Hythace, she’s my patron goddess, right? She’s this big black mountain with a perpetual thunderstorm around her top. Pretty talkative for a goddess, even. ‘Course she can’t talk to nobody but clicky-brained clergy. Anyways, she put her mark on me right away. Still got it.” Hditr loosened her tunic. The fur around her neck had been burned to silver.

“Why can’t talk to anyone but clergy?” asked Eric.

“Well, she writes stuff in lighting in her thunderstorm. Gone in an instant. But her clergy can cast memory spells. We use ‘em to remember what she wrote.”

Eric tried and failed to rub his eyes. “She sounds very different than the god I met.”

Hditr shrugged. “Eh, gods. They’re all different. They’re all crazy, too.”

“Isn’t that a little bit blasphemous?” asked Eric.

“If an anti-bishop can’t blaspheme her own goddess, who can?” asked Hditr, apparently seriously.

“I still don’t get what’s an anti-bishop,” said Eric.

“A bishop is a priest in charge of a whole district. Administration, rituals, public dignity, lots of underlings, order, pomp, circumstance, professionalism. Also protecting the honor of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, ensuring revenue, concealing clerical misdeeds, all that stuff. You can’t see me doing most of that, can you? I’ve got as much pomp as a pimp in a pump, and I’m the one performing those clerical misdeeds what need covering up. Wound up in bed with the bishop’s wife of Snorth, I did.”

Eric said, “You said husband, last time.”

“Oh, I slept all slorts of slippery sluttery spouses, I did, and caste be curste” said Hditr. “Anyhow, nobody could imagine some unpolished barmaid’s daughter in charge of a district, least of all me. But neither could they shove me in a corner and ignore me, not after Hythace marked on me and kept calling me over to chat.”

“What did you chat about?” I asked. The gods of Yirien are few in number, and grimly silent.

“Whatever I wanted. Which was sometimes who I was boinking at the time — not her favorite topic, what with her being a ‘her’ only by convention and all — and sometimes was how magic varies from place to place. That, it turned out, is what she was interested in too. So she picked someone who could move around and didn’t mind pissing everyone off with questions to find out. And here I am.”

“What have you found out?”

“I have found out that I have as much of a clue as a clabbered clam, and I gotta investigate everything a whole lot more.” Hditr got herself a chalice of the world-ship’s nasty coffee, lapped at it, and made a face. «Cuisine» and I made it taste good, and she grinned at us.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; one is crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. Kidnapped and word-knotted by Kuur Molk Hasp is she, who is worthy of every curse and suffering. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Me — coiled in the box, hidden by the curtain of ripped velvet. No words for couatl or spidersen; no couatl or spidersen. No words for humans; but humans were there.

The words of humans — heard from within the box. Translated. Transcribed. A tool to use? But how?

Kuur: Rathigrea, enter my chamber of sorcery! I have need of you!

Rathigrea: What news, my husband? Is it done?

Kuur: It is done, my wife. The spirit from Gemgaru is brought forth from that mystic hell. A serpent-spirit, a bird-spirit, with powers of healing. It is in the box there.

Rathigrea: May I look, my husband? It is a thing out dream and story; I would see it!

Kuur: Lift the curtain and glance, my wife. It hisses with rage; it would destroy our bodies and seethe our souls if it could. It cannot.

The curtain — brushed aside by a hand of Rathigrea. Rathigrea — Shorter than Kuur! Thin! Breechclout of knotted dusty-green cloth! Bruises on her hands, her arms! Fear in her eyes! Fatigue in her limbs! Wonder in her lips.

Rathigrea: It’s beautiful!

Kuur: Its beauty is a trap, my wife, nor should you think of it as less than hideously dangerous. I control it by both hostages and incantations, as the grimoires teach. But I do not trust it. It is a monstrous wicked thing, a demon of devils, and it hates us, it hates all that walks on two legs.

Me — yes! I hate him! But not for counting his legs! For his smashing and stealing of my eggs and me!

Rathigrea: Will it give you the powers you need, Kuur?

Kuur: It will obey me.

Rathigrea: Then let it begin now, my husband. Douk …

Kuur: My son? What has come to Douk?

Rathigrea: He spoke harsh words and heavy insults to the shaft-boss. Upon which the shaft-boss raised his quota again. Douk protested. Douk waved his strong fist and digging-mattock in the face of the shaft-boss. The Scorthmen came then.

Kuur: My son, my son! Does he live?

Rathigrea: He lives. The Scorthmen do not kill good miners. They covered his eyes with rotting meat, and poured live coals on his head. He is sore with burns and stinking with infections.

Kuur: Yet you told me none of this!

Rathigrea: You were at your sorceries, to free us all. I tell you now.

Kuur: Bring the lad to me, wife! My bound spirit shall begin by giving him a healing!

Douk — brought in. Tall, strong, skin of grey. Eyes puffy with sickness. Hairless even on his head — coarsely shaved. Many blisters from burning.

Kuur: Couatl, attend!
D̲URMENT TH̐A̗UN̳ DOKC CH͔AͅAN͌U
I compel thee by the terms of thy binding to work your full power for healing upon any human who places a hand within thine box, delaying not, making excuses not, adding not any sort of injury or trouble or vexation, neither causing unseemliness nor complication, and in all ways must they remain unaware of your presence and nature.
D̲URMENT H̭OI AMARA̬TA̡XS͂EN
And I promise you further that if you displease me in your obedience to this command, I shall smash one of your eggs, mix the yolk with my own shit, and paint you with it.

Response — I wished to make it, fierce and biting and bitter, but I could not, for the sorcerer’s words clogged my mouth when I tried.

Douk — nervously placed his hand under the curtain.

Me — healed the child of the man who had killed my child. My choice — none.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage, «Cuisine»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she; one is crushed. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. Kidnapped and word-knotted by Kuur Molk Hasp is she, who is worthy of every curse and suffering. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Me — coiled in the box, hidden by the curtain of ripped velvet. No words for couatl or spidersen; no couatl or spidersen. No words for humans; but humans were there.

The words of humans — heard from within the box. Translated. Transcribed. A tool to use? But how?

Kuur: Rathigrea, enter my chamber of sorcery! I have need of you!

Rathigrea: What news, my husband? Is it done?

Kuur: It is done, my wife. The spirit from Gemgaru is brought forth from that mystic hell. A serpent-spirit, a bird-spirit, with powers of healing. It is in the box there.

Rathigrea: May I look, my husband? It is a thing out dream and story; I would see it!

Kuur: Lift the curtain and glance, my wife. It hisses with rage; it would destroy our bodies and seethe our souls if it could. It cannot.

The curtain — brushed aside by a hand of Rathigrea. Rathigrea — Shorter than Kuur! Thin! Breechclout of knotted dusty-green cloth! Bruises on her hands, her arms! Fear in her eyes! Fatigue in her limbs! Wonder in her lips.

Rathigrea: It’s beautiful!

Kuur: Its beauty is a trap, my wife, nor should you think of it as less than hideously dangerous. I control it by both hostages and incantations, as the grimoires teach. But I do not trust it. It is a monstrous wicked thing, a demon of devils, and it hates us, it hates all that walks on two legs.

Me — yes! I hate him! But not for counting his legs! For his smashing and stealing of my eggs and me!

Rathigrea: Will it give you the powers you need, Kuur?

Kuur: It will obey me.

Rathigrea: Then let it begin now, my husband. Douk …

Kuur: My son? What has come to Douk?

Rathigrea: He spoke harsh words and heavy insults to the shaft-boss. Upon which the shaft-boss raised his quota again. Douk protested. Douk waved his strong fist and digging-mattock in the face of the shaft-boss. The Scorthmen came then.

Kuur: My son, my son! Does he live?

Rathigrea: He lives. The Scorthmen do not kill good miners. They covered his eyes with rotting meat, and poured live coals on his head. He is sore with burns and stinking with infections.

Kuur: Yet you told me none of this!

Rathigrea: You were at your sorceries, to free us all. I tell you now.

Kuur: Bring the lad to me, wife! My bound spirit shall begin by giving him a healing!

Douk — brought in. Tall, strong, skin of grey. Eyes puffy with sickness. Hairless even on his head — coarsely shaved. Many blisters from burning.

Kuur: Couatl, attend!
D̲URMENT TH̐A̗UN̳ DOKC CH͔AͅAN͌U
I compel thee by the terms of thy binding to work your full power for healing upon any human who places a hand within thine box, delaying not, making excuses not, adding not any sort of injury or trouble or vexation, neither causing unseemliness nor complication, and in all ways must they remain unaware of your presence and nature.
D̲URMENT H̭OI AMARA̬TA̡XS͂EN
And I promise you further that if you displease me in your obedience to this command, I shall smash one of your eggs, mix the yolk with my own shit, and paint you with it.

Response — I wished to make it, fierce and biting and bitter, but I could not, for the sorcerer’s words clogged my mouth when I tried.

Douk — nervously placed his hand under the curtain.

Me — healed the child of the man who had killed my child. My choice — none.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

I scampered forth, an eager bunch of dragon heads, and followed the recipe. The third door on the left opened onto the mess room, a small rectangular room with rounded corners, with four metal tables and sixteen mushroom-shaped stools bolted to the floor, and a grille and a slot upon the wall, and a badger and a ghost on two mushrooms. I spoke the required phrase to the grille. It responded, “Dr̻o̐mmu pson̑tie̛ v̕h͕͒e͖nc.” in buzzy tones. «Language» said that the incantation «Cuisine» had told me was “May I have the condiment assortment with the stew please“, and the answer was “Coming up in a moment, please“.

“By Ghorsam’s ironic earplugs, it’s Tllith, emerged from the virulent virtue-violating embraces of Vong, and speaking in some lunky limulent language! How are you feeling, Tllith?” called Hditr.

“Hi, Hditr and Eric! I think I’m sane again. Hungry, though. I wonder if that’s a side effect of «Cuisine».”

Hditr snorted, “More like a side effect of sleeping for a week. I want to ask you, is that what happened the other time you got a domain sigil?”

I shook my left head, on the advice of «Language». “No, I just talked a lot. That’s not too unusual. Also I got the sigil tatooed in six sessions. It wasn’t such a shock”

Hditr nodded her furry head back. “Slow as a slug in syrup. They say that’s the route to sanity. Quick as a quacking quasit, that’s to get the most power, and boiled bollocks to your brain, right?”

“That seems about right so far,” I admitted. Chitinous appendages pushed a metal tray through the slot. I took it in two mouths, and carried it to Hditr and Eric’s table. It was not a dragon-height table. I had to rear up on four legs to get the tray onto it. Hditr grabbed it with one hand, which I appreciated even if I’m quite sure it wouldn’t have spilled.

I crouched and leapt onto one of the mushrooms Eric gave me an odd look. “Hey there, Tllith. There’s a pedal to make it go up and down, you know.”

“I don’t know!”

“The way you were getting your food and speaking the local lingo to the steward, I thought you’d been on one of these boats before,” he said.

“«Cuisine» and «Language». I’m cheating totally with magic all over,” I said, and started slicing up hard ship’s biscuits with my claws and and otherwise following the recipe.

Eric said, “Oh, right. I’m still not used to magic. I have an easier time thinking of this as some super-advanced spaceship with a high technology food replicator.”

“Nope. We’re in the mucking multiverse of magic, and that’s the ship’s spidersen steward Ghomfuu back in the galley, picking hard-as-halite biscuits out of a wooden box and reheating this stinking slumgummery stew on a spirit lamp,” said Hditr. She ate a spoonful of it with a sigh.

I tasted it. It was bland and inoffensive, a thick slurry of lentils and carrots and onions and tomatoes, rounded out with marjoram and bay and red wine. “It’s not that bad, but the mustard and vinegar help a lot.”

“How the humping halloon did you rate mustard and vinegar? Hey, can I have the pepper sauce if you’re not going to have it?” she said.

“Well, I just asked for it, in the right language. Maybe the steward doesn’t speak Ilmalang. Go ahead on the sauce, but…” I started.

“I’ll just do the dousing deed right away!” She snagged the bowl of honey-catsup, upended it onto her stew, and stirred it in in an instant, and took a spoonful. “Oh, sexually-swinging swine! It’s sweet sauce, not pepper sauce!”

“… it’s not pepper sauce,” I finished.

“Finger-fucking fangflayers, it’s not pepper sauce! Why didn’t you tell me that earlier, while I was grabbing it off your tray and interrupting you just like a jaspered jout so you couldn’t tell me?”

“Not a good combination?” asked Eric.

“Ginger gum and gargled gammon is not a good combination. This is a downright bad combination,” said Hditr. She ate a second spoonful, with a pitiable expression on her face and considerable mock effort choking it down.

“Behold the power of «Cuisine»!” I cried, and cast the mightiest food-spell I had ever seen cast. Also the second food-spell I had ever seen cast. From the luminance of my magic the catsup oozed out of the stew and poured back into the cup it had come from.

“Ooh, I behold, I behold like a believing badger babe! That’s a timely trick,” said Hditr. “Could you score some of that vinegar from our scorpionistic spidersen steward for me?”

“Sure,” I said, and gobbled two more bites of stew and softened biscuits with each head before hopping down off the mushroom and speaking a «Language»-translated incantation in whatever heavily-inflected tongue that was to the steward. In a moment I returned to Hditr with tots of mustard and vinegar.

“Well, thank you kindly, dragon! You’re worth your pay, sure!” she said.

“You’re not paying me,” I noted.

“Well, fine. You’re worth the occasional oscillatingly-orgasmed gift, then. Happy? Who eats catsup with lentil stew, any-the-fuck-how? Or caramel syrup, by Rogalia’s rogering rodents?”

I lifted one head from the stew to ask my domains, and answered Hditr with, “Savory stews with sweet sauces are characteristic of the Bunfi — or Bun̮phíd͖a̦la̯̽ if you want to please them by saying it right — cuisine.”

“Wonder wicks, and thank you kindly. Where are the Bum-fucks, and how do I stay the food-fearing firefarts out of their restaurants?” asked Hditr.

“I have no idea,” I said. “Neither of my domains is that good with geography.” (It turned out that Bunfi are one of the main ethnic groups on Ixange, and there was nothing in the least surprising about an Ixange-based world-ship serving it.)

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

I scampered forth, an eager bunch of dragon heads, and followed the recipe. The third door on the left opened onto the mess room, a small rectangular room with rounded corners, with four metal tables and sixteen mushroom-shaped stools bolted to the floor, and a grille and a slot upon the wall, and a badger and a ghost on two mushrooms. I spoke the required phrase to the grille. It responded, “Dr̻o̐mmu pson̑tie̛ v̕h͕͒e͖nc.” in buzzy tones. «Language» said that the incantation «Cuisine» had told me was “May I have the condiment assortment with the stew please“, and the answer was “Coming up in a moment, please“.

“By Ghorsam’s ironic earplugs, it’s Tllith, emerged from the virulent virtue-violating embraces of Vong, and speaking in some lunky limulent language! How are you feeling, Tllith?” called Hditr.

“Hi, Hditr and Eric! I think I’m sane again. Hungry, though. I wonder if that’s a side effect of «Cuisine».”

Hditr snorted, “More like a side effect of sleeping for a week. I want to ask you, is that what happened the other time you got a domain sigil?”

I shook my left head, on the advice of «Language». “No, I just talked a lot. That’s not too unusual. Also I got the sigil tatooed in six sessions. It wasn’t such a shock”

Hditr nodded her furry head back. “Slow as a slug in syrup. They say that’s the route to sanity. Quick as a quacking quasit, that’s to get the most power, and boiled bollocks to your brain, right?”

“That seems about right so far,” I admitted. Chitinous appendages pushed a metal tray through the slot. I took it in two mouths, and carried it to Hditr and Eric’s table. It was not a dragon-height table. I had to rear up on four legs to get the tray onto it. Hditr grabbed it with one hand, which I appreciated even if I’m quite sure it wouldn’t have spilled.

I crouched and leapt onto one of the mushrooms Eric gave me an odd look. “Hey there, Tllith. There’s a pedal to make it go up and down, you know.”

“I don’t know!”

“The way you were getting your food and speaking the local lingo to the steward, I thought you’d been on one of these boats before,” he said.

“«Cuisine» and «Language». I’m cheating totally with magic all over,” I said, and started slicing up hard ship’s biscuits with my claws and and otherwise following the recipe.

Eric said, “Oh, right. I’m still not used to magic. I have an easier time thinking of this as some super-advanced spaceship with a high technology food replicator.”

“Nope. We’re in the mucking multiverse of magic, and that’s the ship’s spidersen steward Ghomfuu back in the galley, picking hard-as-halite biscuits out of a wooden box and reheating this stinking slumgummery stew on a spirit lamp,” said Hditr. She ate a spoonful of it with a sigh.

I tasted it. It was bland and inoffensive, a thick slurry of lentils and carrots and onions and tomatoes, rounded out with marjoram and bay and red wine. “It’s not that bad, but the mustard and vinegar help a lot.”

“How the humping halloon did you rate mustard and vinegar? Hey, can I have the pepper sauce if you’re not going to have it?” she said.

“Well, I just asked for it, in the right language. Maybe the steward doesn’t speak Ilmalang. Go ahead on the sauce, but…” I started.

“I’ll just do the dousing deed right away!” She snagged the bowl of honey-catsup, upended it onto her stew, and stirred it in in an instant, and took a spoonful. “Oh, sexually-swinging swine! It’s sweet sauce, not pepper sauce!”

“… it’s not pepper sauce,” I finished.

“Finger-fucking fangflayers, it’s not pepper sauce! Why didn’t you tell me that earlier, while I was grabbing it off your tray and interrupting you just like a jaspered jout so you couldn’t tell me?”

“Not a good combination?” asked Eric.

“Ginger gum and gargled gammon is not a good combination. This is a downright bad combination,” said Hditr. She ate a second spoonful, with a pitiable expression on her face and considerable mock effort choking it down.

“Behold the power of «Cuisine»!” I cried, and cast the mightiest food-spell I had ever seen cast. Also the second food-spell I had ever seen cast. From the luminance of my magic the catsup oozed out of the stew and poured back into the cup it had come from.

“Ooh, I behold, I behold like a believing badger babe! That’s a timely trick,” said Hditr. “Could you score some of that vinegar from our scorpionistic spidersen steward for me?”

“Sure,” I said, and gobbled two more bites of stew and softened biscuits with each head before hopping down off the mushroom and speaking a «Language»-translated incantation in whatever heavily-inflected tongue that was to the steward. In a moment I returned to Hditr with tots of mustard and vinegar.

“Well, thank you kindly, dragon! You’re worth your pay, sure!” she said.

“You’re not paying me,” I noted.

“Well, fine. You’re worth the occasional oscillatingly-orgasmed gift, then. Happy? Who eats catsup with lentil stew, any-the-fuck-how? Or caramel syrup, by Rogalia’s rogering rodents?”

I lifted one head from the stew to ask my domains, and answered Hditr with, “Savory stews with sweet sauces are characteristic of the Bunfi — or Bun̮phíd͖a̦la̯̽ if you want to please them by saying it right — cuisine.”

“Wonder wicks, and thank you kindly. Where are the Bum-fucks, and how do I stay the food-fearing firefarts out of their restaurants?” asked Hditr.

“I have no idea,” I said. “Neither of my domains is that good with geography.” (It turned out that Bunfi are one of the main ethnic groups on Ixange, and there was nothing in the least surprising about an Ixange-based world-ship serving it.)

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Myself — Flung into the center of geometry upon the floor of the sorcerer’s room. Held trapped by lines and arcs scribed in ashes and chalk. Walled-in by incense and foul fumigations.

The speaking of Kuur Molk Hasp — Read from the great book.
D̲URMENT HLI͉DIOPSI͆S TRAH̒N͓U̐UT
By the mighty name of GH͈RỌGSI̯AS I bind thee for so long as thine fertilized eggs remain away from thee.
D̲URMENT KOERGIKU̢S POR̕HANEY
By the dread flame DNUR PEZ̳MON DNUR that dwells beyond the eyes of serene TEPHN̄OHIṀ-LA I compel thee to have no commerce with human, spidersen, or couatl save as I permit during that time.
D̲URMENT IRIMITOR NO̘S̈TER̰ KFERGUNT
By the frozen sea DUZ̞MON OC OK whose waves whelmed the Inapplicable Land, I require of thee never to lift against me wing nor fang, spell nor potency, visible nor invisible device, while you remain in Tellosh and after you return to Gemgaru.
D̲URMENT KJAD̅E TILKOM̗ȂNT͈
These bindings and compulsions and requirements have been written in the Imimitable Script upon the all-siring phallus of terrible NOVŎR; they have been inscribed in jade letters upon the all-knowing forehead of redemptive VUXKNIL; they have been cemented upon the all-ruling wrists of cosmic LO͌RN GA͊SḴ DU̐KU̻ EMPU͋ GA͊S͔K. It is done.

The words — Nonsense words! Never meaning anything, those words!

— but —

When I try to plead with Kuur to release me and my eggs … My mouth — full of fire! Burning! (My face-feathers — scorched!) It is DNUR PEZ̳MON DNUR! I cannot speak!

When I strike at Kuur’s hand… My mouth — suddenly crammed full of salt, of ice, of crashing crunching waves — of DUZ̞MON OC OK!

These things — How can they be? But they are.

Kuur — Speaking, Into the box, thou stupid and disobedient spirit!

The box — Crude wood boards. Glued and nailed. A foot high, two long, three wide. One side — cryptic words written: Dallopp and Heem-Smyth, Provisioners to the Royal Army, Scorth One side — a gaping hole of boards smashed away. A black curtain, heavy ripped velvet, glued and tacked to cover the hole, swept aside by the hand of Kuur to show me. Inside — splinters, crumbs of biscuits, scraps!

The box — My cage. My home.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

This being read for Tllith of Yirien, Princess of Septoulny Swamp, «Language»-mage. This being written by Cleiestis of Gemgaru. Layer of six fertilized eggs is she. Priestess of the third florescence is she, mistress of seven spells and three visible and four invisible potencies. Wife of Tomolrouc is she, who is the assistant administrator of flying insects to the Hoouthgala district. The hope from here is that you are in a state of delighted, and that three happinesses and four contentments are on you.

Myself — Flung into the center of geometry upon the floor of the sorcerer’s room. Held trapped by lines and arcs scribed in ashes and chalk. Walled-in by incense and foul fumigations.

The speaking of Kuur Molk Hasp — Read from the great book.
D̲URMENT HLI͉DIOPSI͆S TRAH̒N͓U̐UT
By the mighty name of GH͈RỌGSI̯AS I bind thee for so long as thine fertilized eggs remain away from thee.
D̲URMENT KOERGIKU̢S POR̕HANEY
By the dread flame DNUR PEZ̳MON DNUR that dwells beyond the eyes of serene TEPHN̄OHIṀ-LA I compel thee to have no commerce with human, spidersen, or couatl save as I permit during that time.
D̲URMENT IRIMITOR NO̘S̈TER̰ KFERGUNT
By the frozen sea DUZ̞MON OC OK whose waves whelmed the Inapplicable Land, I require of thee never to lift against me wing nor fang, spell nor potency, visible nor invisible device, while you remain in Tellosh and after you return to Gemgaru.
D̲URMENT KJAD̅E TILKOM̗ȂNT͈
These bindings and compulsions and requirements have been written in the Imimitable Script upon the all-siring phallus of terrible NOVŎR; they have been inscribed in jade letters upon the all-knowing forehead of redemptive VUXKNIL; they have been cemented upon the all-ruling wrists of cosmic LO͌RN GA͊SḴ DU̐KU̻ EMPU͋ GA͊S͔K. It is done.

The words — Nonsense words! Never meaning anything, those words!

— but —

When I try to plead with Kuur to release me and my eggs … My mouth — full of fire! Burning! (My face-feathers — scorched!) It is DNUR PEZ̳MON DNUR! I cannot speak!

When I strike at Kuur’s hand… My mouth — suddenly crammed full of salt, of ice, of crashing crunching waves — of DUZ̞MON OC OK!

These things — How can they be? But they are.

Kuur — Speaking, Into the box, thou stupid and disobedient spirit!

The box — Crude wood boards. Glued and nailed. A foot high, two long, three wide. One side — cryptic words written: Dallopp and Heem-Smyth, Provisioners to the Royal Army, Scorth One side — a gaping hole of boards smashed away. A black curtain, heavy ripped velvet, glued and tacked to cover the hole, swept aside by the hand of Kuur to show me. Inside — splinters, crumbs of biscuits, scraps!

The box — My cage. My home.

sythyry: (sythyry-doomed)

Mirrored from Sythyry.

Curse-dreams of curries and cassoulettes simmered me for hours, for days. Bafflements baked me until until golden-brown. Eventually I awoke, to discover that I was tied loosely to a very large bed under a comfortably low ceiling. I quite sensibly started burning the cords off of my legs and necks.

“What!! What are you doing??!! A fire here could be the end of me — of us all!!” wailed Vong. He leapt down and dashed a pitcher of water over me.

It was instantly obvious, even to my sleep-boggled and «Cuisine»-fermented mind, what had happened. We had not in fact escaped onto the world-boat. Vong and his minions had caught up with us. I had been bound. Hditr and Hermen were probably imprisoned or worse. Eric must have escaped, being wholly intangible, and was probably making plans to rescue me as soon as he could find a living ally.

My role was clearly to buy Eric all the time I could manage. “What do you want with me, Vong?”

“I want you not to kill me, you stupid and insane lizard!!” he stated.

“Then let me go, monstrous and wicked toad!” I riposted.

“All right, all right,” he grumbled, and started untying the cords on my legs. I had tricked him! This was almost too easy!

It was, in fact, too easy, for soon Vong proclaimed, “What insolence is this?? “You have made these bonds be wet — be soaking! They cannot be untied!!”

“I think they’re soaked from you dumping a pitcher of water on them,” I pointed out.

“Lout!! Disrespectful beast!! Do not speak thus to me when I am doing a favor for you!!” he snarled.

“Then don’t. I’ll escape on my own,” I snapped, and started gnawing on one of the cords with my ice-head’s mouth. Vong did nothing to stop me; he simply glared. What a hopeless villain!

Well, if he wasn’t going to interrogate me, I would surely interrogate him. While gnawing with one head, I challenged him with another. “What have you done with Hditr, Eric, and that seminary-trained miner?”

“Nothing!!” said Vong sullenly. “It’s what they did to me that you should ask about!!”

One delaying tactic is as good as any other, I supposed. “Well, what did they do to you?”

He sat on a small metal bench or shelf in the opposite wall. When I had gnawed through the cords on my fire-head, I stuck it out to look around. Vong and I were in a small metal room, with two bunks on one side (I was in the upper one), a few drawers and a door and that bench in the other side, and four dim glow-spots in the ceiling’s corners for lighting.

“They got me exiled from Drullguur!!!” said Vong, more emphatically than his usual, hopping to his feet in a sudden passion of fury. “They twisted the minds of the miners against me!!! They raised an insurrection — against me!!! Against a lawfully appointed mayor!!! Who had been working for months for nothing but their benefit and goodification!!!”

“I can’t imagine any other possible cause for an insurrection against you. How could they object to you calling the scriptures ‘fuck poetry’ and having your truncheon-bearing goon threaten them?”

Vong cast himself to the bench despondently. “Exactly!! Exactly!! You understand me, lizard, where neither miners nor mammals do!!” I gathered that he didn’t really understand draconic gestures of sarcasm.

“So, why are we in here?” I asked, getting my forelegs free.

“They didn’t want to share a cabin with me!!” cried Vong. “Me — whose very integument exudes an attar of stulch-rose!! Whose ancestral lineage includes great heroes and mighty insect-finders!! Among whose cousins are numbered both crooners and queens!!”

“… cabin?…” I asked.

“Cabin! And for the entire duration of the voyage to Ixange I must endure their close proximity!! And yours as well!!”

I was perplexed. “Wait, we’re going to Ixange?”

“Yes!! I — exiled from Drullguur!! You and your companions — accompanying me to mock me!!”

“Actually we were trying to escape you and your bully-boys,” I pointed out.

“What?? My bully-boys?? I have no bully-boys!! I never had bully-boys!! I had hired security forces!! But!! They were un-hired insecurity forces when security became necessary!! Instantly they cited a payment dispute and sided with the miners!! Like foul stinking cameoleopard turds born of an improper and infelicitous conjunction between a rotten radish and a festering ferret!!”

That was not an image I much wanted to imagine. In part I was afraid that, if I ever succeeded in imagining it, I would never be able to un-imagine it. “Is there anything to eat here?” After «Cuisine»-fever I was ravenous. “Any croustellines St. Jacques au choufleur, maybe? Or bear’s liver fermented in a sauce of mouse intestines? Or … ” I shook my heads to clear them, which does not work as well for a Yirienian as for a more centralized person, but I had few useful alternatives. “Even anything plausible?”

“Here?? Bah, no!! Nothing!! You must go to the mess room to eat, like anyone!! I shall not be your waiter-slave and bring you delicacies!!” Vong waved a web-fingered hand at a rectangular outline on the metal wall.

I poked at it. Vong snorted, “!!”, and depressed a spring among several on an obscure panel. The door slid aside. I pranced ravenously into the metal tube of a corridor. I used my new-branded powers to cast a spell to seek prepared food — realizing, as I did, that I had become one of the few people in any universe who could do that. It produced directions in the form of a recipe.

1 bunch of dragon heads, fresh if possible, as chef
4 ship’s biscuits
1 pint of reheated lentil stew
Preserved black olives and green pickles
Condiment Assortment
Send the dragon heads leftwards through the steely corridors of the world-ship, and through the third door on the left. Speak the words “Tsu̗vͅh́i̜p̩͒ dw̉exy̻ įr͋n̻ufu̩ lesp͑ d̒w͉̍okty̿ a͈͉l̰bu͓” to the grille upon the wall. When the other ingredients emerge from the slot beneath, thinly slice three biscuits. Make a central well in the thick stew and line it with sliced biscuits. From the condiment assortment, carefully remove and discard the honey-catsup, caramel syrup, and green sauce. Carefully pour the vinegar over one half of the stew, and the mustard over the other half. Crumble the remaining biscuit finely and sprinkle it on top. Serve it forth with olives and pickles on the side to the dragon heads, in full knowledge that no better arrangement is currently possible.

Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 07:53 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios