rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This follows on from Travelogue: Part 1 and runs to 3,360 words.

The afternoon didn't drag on, but Saylie did pull out a puzzle book and some pens so she had something to do aside from gazing out the window.  The sun was getting lower in the west and the shadow of the train was making the details of the near fields more difficult to see.  There was more pasture in among the crop now too and Saylie noted that there were separate herds of black or white cows in some of those pastures.  Darkness came as the train was pulling into Morphelstone and she realised that she couldn't see the colour of the buildings.  

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rix_scaedu: (Elf)

In her prompt, kailing asked for "moar train journeys" and said that I could mix a few of her prompt suggestions together. Well, a few of the other prompts flavour this piece but I seem to have written a multi-part travelogue for a new setting - but with plot elements! This first part runs to 3,439 words. I hope that you all enjoy it.

Saylie was being sent into exile, there was no other word for it. The official letters for her post-school assignment had come, and her parents hadn't let her see them as they tried to get the decision changed or the blow softened. As they came to grips with their failure her mother's temper got shorter and rattier, and her father became more soothing and more distant. Instead of letting her read the official letter herself, Saylie's mother gave her verbal summaries and her own critiques of how Saylie's failings had led to a state of affairs that her parents couldn't get her out of. How her school and aptitude assessments had told the authorities that she wasn't someone that they wanted hanging around the city, and so, now she had finished her compulsory schooling, she was being sent away. Borasboom was a civilised place surrounded by tamed, cultivated and managed lands. How it wasn't just that Saylie's particular talents were messily explosive and barely confined but that she lacked the personal discipline and application to keep her magic in check.

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This is now followed by Travelogue: Part 2.

Old News

Apr. 13th, 2019 11:10 pm
rix_scaedu: (Elf)
In response to Zia Nuray's request for a side note on Liavan's Great Aunt Anglou, after two pages of notes and three starts, we have this. It runs to 747 words.

The dying man finished what he wanted to say, and the room went quiet.

If it had been thirty, even twenty, years ago Anglou Saddler would have cried.  Even ten years ago she would have cursed the dying man, deathbed or not.

Now?  Now Dendion Gale and all their plans for a life together were thirty years dead.  She'd made a different life, and time had aged her grief for both the man and the life she might have had with him into an occasional melancholic regret.  The only difference now was that a dying man had confessed to her once betrothed's murder.

The prosecution of the murder, or not, wasn't Anglou's problem.  That duty lay with the town reeve, and ultimately the King.  The reeve's presence at the confession, requested by the dying man himself, absolved Anglou and the dying man's family of the responsibility of reporting the matter.  Murder was not a thing that you should have to request that it be investigated or prosecuted, and at the moment Anglou was glad that she didn't have to take on those responsibilities.

"What happens now?"  That was one of the dying man's sons, a well-grown man with children of his own who'd been a toddler back when it had all happened.

"I will check your father's statement against the facts recorded at time of Dendion Gale's death," replied the reeve.  "Then I will interview the families of the other men he mentions in his story; in case they too raised the matter before their own ends.  When all of that information is in hand, a decision will be made as to how to proceed."  He glanced at the man in the bed who was propped up with pillows and cushions to make breathing and speaking easier.   "It is entirely possible, given the state if your father's health, that the natural course of events will outrun the investigation."

"That's what I thought," confirmed the dying man.  "Why else leave matters so long and speak now?  Thing is," he added another confession, "with me gone, he'll have lost his last chance of vengeance against those who caused his wrongful death.  All of us who were there that day have sons and grandsons who work down that mine now, and those lads are not to blame for this.  I hold that none of us would have gotten out of that collapse that day if we hadn't done what we did, but time has come to acknowledge all debts.  His blood kin left the world before him, so I owe them candles and prayers, but I've been offering them up for him and his for years now.  That leaves Mistress Saddler."  Everyone turned to look at Anglou.  "We, we didn't really believe him when he told us all he had a girl."  He paused, "And then we all thought she'd find someone else, but...."

"Turned out that there was no-one else who particularly interested me or was particularly interested in me," said Anglou briskly.

"A lot's happened in the last thirty years, think on, Hollace Farrow."  She looked   around the room at the reeve, the descendants of the dying Hollace Farrow, the attending priest, and Market Cranebourne's resident withemaster, Withemaster Read.  "What I ask for now, isn't what I would have asked for then.  The execution of justice in this matter isn't mine.  What I want now is no unnatural deaths coming out of the mine.  That means recovering what is left of the body and giving it a proper funeral and burial."  The priest and the withemaster nodded in agreement.  "Hollace, you are going to pay for a coffin for Dendion, and your lads are going to take it down in to the mine and bring his body out in it after you tell them where to find it.  Then you are going to share your funeral with him." 

The priest spoke up.  "That should work, if you retrieve the body before Hollace dies."

A granddaughter asked, "Excuse me, what happens if they don't do that?"

"Then they'll be playing hide and seek in the dark with a vengeance seeking dead man," replied Withemaster Read.  "One fuelled by righteousness.  That would be...difficult." 

"Very difficult," agreed the priest.  "The bishop would probably have to go to the archbishop for help, and the archbishop might need to ask the other archbishops."

"Perhaps we should go tonight then," suggested a Fallow son-in-law.  "If we've not much time, then we shouldn't waste it.”

rix_scaedu: (Elf)
After a month of coughing and trying to get the oomph to fix the plot hole I tried to ignore, I’ve finally done it and here we are again! This leads on from Part 7 and runs to 2,872 words.

Over an hour after Father Manrel had gone on his way but while it was still before noon, Liavan's stall received a visit from two of her older sisters. Havor was wearing a dark blue tunic over a slightly lighter blue dress while Adnie was wearing a red dress under an orange tunic. Both of them were wearing straw hats adorned with feathers dyed to match their tunics, and both were carrying shopping baskets. Liavan noticed that they both looked around carefully before approaching her.

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Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
Part 7.
This is Part 8.

rix_scaedu: (Master Que)
This follows on from Disrupting Arrangements and runs to 3,002 words.

I announced myself with a cheery, “Good evening, Master Que! Everyone, this is my gi teacher and manager, Master Que Tzu. If you have an interest in professional gi fighters, his professional name is Shui Tzu Dan and I am fortunate to have his guidance.” I bowed politely in his direction, and went on, “May I make known to you my fellow students Lin Wu, Xiang An, Wei Ge, Li Zhen, Tang Tu, Han Er, and Hen Xiao?”

My fellow students bowed to Master Que, who bowed in return, knife still in hand. When he’d straightened again Xiang An said with an apologetic glance at me, “As a point of fact I’m a tutor, not a student, sir. First through Third Year Geology.”

Master Que looked at him for a moment and then grinned. If you didn’t know him it could be a disconcerting expression. “Oh, you think I’m the head of the household! That’s my esteemed student here, Miss Sung Nai. She pays the rent, not me. The family shrine, however, still is dedicated to the Lao family, our landlords.” He turned slightly and addressed his cooking audience, “Ladies and attendant grandsons,” the boys giggled, “this is my student, Sung Nai, who has successfully launched her professional career as a gi fighter. She will be eligible to receive a professional name at this year’s moon festival. Miss Sung, I have taken the liberty of offering the shelter of your household to: Madam Dong Mei and her grandson, Dong Wei; Madam Ji Dan; Madam Yang Ying and her grandson, Yang Gai; and Madam Hua Bao, and her grandsons, Dee Zhi and Dee Yue. Madam Hua’s daughter, Madam Dee Lu is also staying with us, but she is a nurse with an evening shift today, so she is working right now.”

All of them bowed to me and I bowed gravely back. “Welcome. I hope you will be comfortable with us until you can return home. Master Que, have you given any thought to bedroom assignments yet?”

Master Que resumed chopping the spring onions. From the bowls of other vegetables that were already prepared, I assumed he was making stir fried something and breakfast pickles for eighteen. “I’ve taken the liberty of giving the ladies here the rooms on the ground floor of the western building,” he told me. “Your dust trick proved very useful, I must say. Perhaps three of these young men could join me in the rooms on the top floor of the eastern building, and the other three could go in three of the rooms on the top of the western building? That would leave a room over there to put the excess furniture in. Then we can clear out two rooms in the main building for the young ladies.” He stopped chopping and started adding sliced vegetables to two large pickling jars that I hadn’t seen before. “After she has slept, we should check with Madam Dee what sleeping arrangements will work best with her shift work.”

“You seem to have considered everything,” I told him. “Do you need my help with dinner?”

“Thank you,” he nodded, “but all the preparation is done, I just need to cook. I’m doing a noodle thing I perfected in one of my solitary bachelor periods for when I had people over. After I came home this afternoon, I went out again and did some grocery shopping to carry us through the next few days. I’m sure the big rice cookers will come in handy.” He pointed over his shoulder at two new rice cookers.

I recognised the brand and model, “Those are what my mother got last year when she needed to replace the ones in her kitchen. They’re very good, and sturdy too. I’ll start clearing dust out of the rooms and rearranging furniture, shall I?”

Dust was easily dealt with, and I did the rooms on the top floors of the east and west buldings first because there were no decisions to be made as to which rooms we would be using. Theoretically there should have been on the top floor of the west building, but we looked in the door of the southern most room and made a unanimous decision to store excess furniture from the other rooms in there. I removed the dust, but the décor was frankly overpowering to our modern sensibilities, although possibly one of the girls with piercings I’d seen at The Blackman’s Redoubt would have liked it.

We raided Professor Lao’s linen cupboard then I left my male guests to organise which room each of them would be in and make up their beds. Han Er, Lin Wu and I then set about choosing rooms for them in the main house. The ground floor was out because there weren’t any bedrooms there. Well, there were rooms that could be used as bedrooms, but they were currently set up as parlors or reception rooms and we weren’t prepared to go moving beds around between floors. Having agreed on that, we went up the stairs to the first floor and, perhaps because we were all girls, we started by looking at the bathrooms. The bathroom closest to the late Professor Lao’s bedroom was, unsurprisingly, the better one with the most modern fittings and the best water flow. None of us thought that occupying his room was appropriate so we looked at the other rooms on that floor. I persuaded them that they wanted rooms overlooking the courtyard and not gazing at the wall of the backside house, so Han Er wound up in the room next to the late professor’s and Lin Wu was in the room next to her.

The front corner room next to both the late professor’s room and the stairs was perfectly nice, but the connecting door into the bedroom next door made them both slightly uncomfortable. I didn’t blame them.

I dusted the two chosen bedrooms and the bathroom and then we revisited the linen cupboard. Han Er and Lin Wu went off to make their beds and I went around making sure that everyone had bath towels and face washers. Then it was time for dinner.

Master Que and I had been eating in the kitchen because the two of us needed no more room than that at the kitchen table and we were, effectively, camping in the house until the sale went through. Tonight, though, Master Que had opened up the dining room and we all ate together in there. He made very sure to put me at the head of the table, though I would have conceded the position to him. He also sat at my right hand and put Ji Dan, the retired seamstress, on my left. There was more going on with that arrangement than I was prepared to think about with my revison for the day and preparations for tomorrow’s tutorials still to do, so I made polite conversation and attempted to look generally benevolent.

We were at the stage of deciding if we wanted seconds when Yang Gai, down near the end of the table, started objecting to his grandmother’s plans to get him to bed shortly. I first heard an angry, “But I don’t have to go to school tomorrow!”

Master Que commented loudly but calmly, “I had not heard that the local schools were closed tomorrow.”

“They’re not,” replied Madam Hua and Madam Yang together.

“Then, young Yang,” said Master Que, “you should attend tomorrow to make sure that all your friends are safe, given the current emergency conditions.” There was a petulant snort from Yang Gai’s direction, and I could see the other boys were looking interested in the whole idea of not going to school too. “However, if you are not going, then I will have to set you lessons. We would begin with half an hour’s basic gi forms, to shake out the overnight kinks, then go on to character practice. I know I have some chalk, so practicing a single character one hundred times on the garden paving shouldn’t be a problem for you. Then we can go for a walk before lunch to obtain writing supplies and enough copies of Tales of Old Baoding for all of you: it was the book my master taught me to read from and I have fond memories of it. Then we would have to prepare lunch, eat it, and clean up afterwards because everyone should know how to feed themselves and it would be remiss of me not to teach you. After lunch we would start you reading the Tales, probably for an hour or so, and then we could go over the receipts from our shopping and make sure that they added up and I had gotten the right change. We would, of course, finish with more gi forms for half to three quarters of an hour. May I ask which school you are training with?”

Yang Gai was looking like an animal caught in the headlights of a car at this point and the other two boys his age had expressions that told me that they were questioning what their friend was getting them into. The youngest boy, Dee Yue, though was bouncing enthusiastically in his seat. “Can I do that too, please? Please?”

Master Que smiled benevolently and asked, “Wouldn’t you rather go to school and see you friends tomorrow, Smallest Dee?”

“I don’t go to school yet,” he replied with the tone of someone who felt much put upon. “Everyone says I’m too small yet, ‘cause I still need a nap in the afternoons.”

“I sometimes feel the need to sleep in the afternoons myself,” acknowledged Master Que gravely, “but often that is because I’ve been running around on the middle of the night. If your mother and grandmother are agreeable, we could certainly do some of those things tomorrow. However, your brother and his associates have not yet told me which gi schools they are training with.” He looked at the older boys and added, “Gentlemen?”

Yang Gai said defiantly, “I don’t go to a gi school. I have lessons with my dad’s friend, Mr Li. He says gi tournaments for kids are a silly thing.”

“That sounds an entirely proper arrangement,” replied Master Que gravely. “Please pass my respects to Mr Li. When I consider my own experiences in such things as a participant, I can now see problems with them that were not apparent to me at the time.”

Dong Wei piped up, “Dee Zhi and I go to Master Cheng’s school. We’re Laosung! What’s wrong with tournaments? I want to be better than Lai Sa because he says he’s going to win all the tournaments when we’re old enough and the rest of us are all babies who can’t do anything.”

“Some of the tournaments of my extreme youth weren’t about gi,” replied Master Que. “There were…inappropriate issues and influences involved in the setting in which they took place. Gambling, for instance,” he added when it was clear that Dong Wei was going to ask a question. “I understand that these days such things are much more carefully controlled.”

“So,” said Dee Zhi, “we can either go to school, or you’ll find us things to do that you think we should be doing?”

“Exactly,” replied Master Que, sipping from a cup of brown liquid that was probably tea. “I would also like to point out that I have considerably more practice at getting my own way than any of you do.”

Dee Yue asked, “If they go to school tomorrow, can I still have lessons?”

“Yes,” replied Master Que. “If your mother and grandmother don’t want you to be Hoshun, then we can avoid the school specific moves.”

“Oh,” commented Hua Bao, the Dee boys’ grandmother, much amused, “we get a say, do we?”

“You have had more opportunity to get to know Dee Yue than I have,” replied Master Que, looking particularly disreputable at that moment between his squint and the cup of brown liquid, “and it is reasonable to assume that you have his best interests at heart. For most people the choice of a gi school doesn’t particularly matter – they will achieve their best skills and expertise by diligent practice and study with a competent and engaged master. Other people, like Miss Sung here, are so clearly attuned to a particular aspect of gi that the choice of school is important if they are to achieve their best.”

Curious, I asked, “Could that be one of the reasons that Master Goh and the teachers I approached before him wouldn’t take me on as a student?”

Master Que turned to look at me and answered, “Possibly, but I still think that the fact you were wandering the streets on your own with a packet of biscuits asking gi masters you didn’t know to teach you may have had more to do with it.”

Ji Dan, the elderly lady on my left, remarked, “I thought that parents arranged their children’s gi classes, but perhaps it’s different in your home province?”

“It’s not,” I confessed, “but my parents were ill and distracted at the time – my mother was unwell following the birth of one of my younger brothers and I’m the eighth child, so there was a lot going on. I remember thinking that I would have to take care of gi lessons myself and apparently I thought that the thank you gift thing was when you actually got a teacher to take you on….”

Tang Tu, one of the older Earth Sciences students, remarked, “Not many people have families that big anymore. I know that my paternal grandmother keeps telling my mother how much easier she has it than the daughter of my father’s second cousin who has thirteen children. Mainly that she copes so well, and the children are so well behaved while my mother has trouble getting the four of us to conform to Grandma’s ideas of good behaviour.”

I looked at him and asked, “Mr Tang, who are your father and paternal grandfather? I’m one of thirteen children, and my mother was Tang Fen before she married my father. Her father is Tang Po.”

“My father’s Tang Pang, a son of Tang Zhi by his second wife. Does your family live in Jingshi?” He was sitting up straighter now and looking more animated.

“Yes,” I confessed. “Was your Tang Zhi’s grandfather Tang Zhang of Baimenkou?”

“He was.” Tang Tu stood and bowed. “Thank you, Cousin Sung, for giving me shelter at this difficult time.”

I stood too and returned the bow. “It is an honour, Cousin Tang, to have you as my guest. I’m sure that it will also be a pleasure. Perhaps we might speak of family matters later?”

“That would be pleasant,” he agreed and we both sat down again to finish our meals.

We grabbed some time in the relative privacy of the kitchen by volunteering to do the washing and drying of dishes. Master Que was also there, supervising his woks and the rice cookers so that nothing untoward happened to them. I opened the conversation while Tang Tu had his rubber gloved hands in the soapy water and I’d just picked up a tea towel by saying, “About the family. I would prefer it if you didn’t tell everyone that you’ve run into me here.”

“There has been some discussion of your absence from home,” he acknowledged. “Precipitate disappearances can lead to ill adventures.”

“There was a serious suggestion for my future that would have negated any chance of me furthering my education,” I told him. “It would have solved the suggester’s problems but not mine.”

“Would there have been any advantage for you in the scheme?” Tang Tu was briskly washing cutlery as we spoke.

“I might have been fortunate”, I admitted, “but it sounded likely to turn into an unmitigated personal disaster for everyone directly involved.”

Tang Tu continued washing quietly for a short time then asked, “Who did your father want you to marry?”

“An unknown and unidentified middle-aged bureaucrat, in accordance with my birth prediction,” I replied, drying chopsticks and dropping them back in the right drawer as I did so. “I can’t see that I could hold such a gentleman’s interest for any length of time at this stage of my life. If he wanted someone to talk to, would I be able to understand his concerns? Would he consider my concerns to be matters of any weight?”

“I can see why you would want to create space between yourself and that proposition,” acknowledged Tang Tu. “As you say, you might have been fortunate but the chances of the two of you being happy together seem small. Particularly, if I may say so, your father was going to choose the gentleman concerned. One’s parents’ tastes in such things are not always one’s own.”

“My father was also against my taking a tertiary education final sweep place, which was how I got in here,” I admitted. “He seemed to think that any course that still had places open wasn’t going to be good enough.”

Tang Tu half turned, his hands still in the soapy water, and asked, “Cousin Sung, what were your marks in the final exams?”

I told him.

He laughed. “You do realise that the university cherry-picked you, don’t you? They think you’re the sort of student that gives them prestige.”

Suddenly guilt-struck I asked, “No-one else would have lost their place so I could have one, would they?”

He gave me a kind smile. “Once a place is offered, they can’t withdraw it. If you were given a place in the final sweep, then it’s because there were places open or because they made a place for you. You deserve to be here, and you haven’t deprived anyone else of their opportunity.” He paused and added, “I don’t believe I will find it necessary to mention to my parents that I have met you here for some time.”

rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This runs on from Liavan: Spring - Part 6 and runs to 2,901 words.

They made their good byes and while the town reeve returned to his own office in the building next door, the three women went to the Bishop's Residence. Father Manrel received them in a comfortable study on the ground floor of the building near its business entrance. Being a churchman, he wore a grey kilt under a grey tunic that had silver buttons down the left-hand side fastening. He had knee-high grey socks and black shoes on his feet, while his hair was pulled back neatly into a standard clerical ponytail almost long enough to reach the waistband of his kilt, if that portion of the garment had been on display. His guest chairs were upholstered in blue and he offered everyone tea.
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Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
Part 6.
This is Part 7

rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This was written to [personal profile] kelkyag 's prompt for my March 19 prompt request. It follows on from Talk Turns to Action which has links to the earlier pieces of this story. This part runs to 1,570 words.

Mayin zigged and zagged through the park in a crouching run, a decade's worth of skills and experience coming back to her despite her lack of recent training. She came across one inconvenient interloper and had him down before he knew that she was there. She took his weapon and left him in the recovery position, reasonably certain that she hadn't killed him. She also managed to make contact with Wraith without getting shot, using a recognition code they'd used before - the call of a creature that had never walked this planet.

The three person screening team worked better than the two man had, simply because it gave them an extra weapon for suppression fire when they had to move their charges across open pieces of park. A couple of the interlopers attempted the sort of grandstanding heroics you saw in the action genre but picked the wrong time and place for their tactics to actually work. Mayin had to shoot one of them. She was prepared to concede that this lot were a little better trained than she'd thought on her first assessment of them, but there were some gaping holes in their skill sets and background knowledge.
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rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This follows on from Part 5 and runs to 3,454 words.

Master Hewurn shook his head sadly. "You tried to tell her," he told Liavan's father sadly. "It's one of those things where if people don't listen, then there's not a lot you can do to help them."

"You cursed me!" Liavan's mother shrieked and small porcelain discs fell from her mouth. "What are these things? Make them stop!"

"I've told you how to lift the curse," replied Liavan calmly. "Now you just have to do it."
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Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.
This is Part 6.

Part 7
Part 8
rix_scaedu: (Elf)
So, it's the first day of March here and I seem to have finally written to all of my September prompts. In the last month I have had a birthday, one of my siblings has married, and I've worked that I have about an hour less than I think I need to everything I want to do in a week.

Of course I'm opening another call for prompts. My intention is to write between 250 and 450 words per piece. (I will just assume that those of you who are laughing at the moment have been around my writing for a while.)

I'm not going with a theme this time, so as long as you’re not asking for fanfic or erotica, please leave me a few prompts in the comments.

I will write one piece for everyone who leaves me a prompt.

I will write an extra piece for anyone who gives me a signal boost and leaves a prompt.

All my patrons on Patreon are automatically entitled to an extra piece, if they leave me prompts.

All of my Experimental Readers are entitled to an extension on a piece written for this prompt - even if they didn't prompt.

My Compulsive Readers are entitled to early access to a longer story from this prompt request...

At this stage, the prompt request will close on 23 March 19, to give me time to make sure that I've done everything.

In the interests of not taking on more than I can handle, I am not offering tips as a way getting more prompts written, thank you.

rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This runs on from Part 4 and runs to 3,215 words.

Liavan was unaware of these events and took herself, together with the two remaining jars of cough mixture from the previous day, to visit the inn on the other side of the Kingsbridge. She suspected that the innkeeper already knew that someone had taken up residence on her hill - the smoke from her chimney must be visible to anyone who chose to look, and she much preferred to be the one to make the first approach. It was past the time that she expected overnighting guests to have left to continue their journeys by the time Liavan arrived at the entrance to the inn's common room. There was an entrance to a paved courtyard as well, but the young withemistress thought that the building entrance would serve her better. The innkeeper might see to the cleaning and preparation of the stables for the next night's travellers, but the person in charge of the housekeeping was more likely to be inside.Read more... )

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
This is Part 5.
Part 6.

Part 7.
Part 8.

rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This follows on from Part 3 and runs to 2,741 words.

"I'm so glad you came!" Withemistress Penden's greeting as she moved toward Liavan and Liavan stood might have been a shade effusive, but it sounded entirely genuine. Today she was wearing a mauve tunic with buttons covered in the same cloth over a purple house dress. "I do hope everything has been going well with you since I saw you." She took Liavan's hand and the two women shook. "Please, sit down again. Mirran is bringing in the tea for us." Read more... )

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
This is Part 4.
Part 7
Part 8.

rix_scaedu: (Elf)
This came out of a September 18 prompt from [personal profile] sauergeek  which was "Nearly out of water and needing to land to find more."  It came in at 1,936 words.
Jaq was keeping lookout all day but there was nothing to see.  The boat floated on the purple waters of the Osimire Sea, halfway between Alawear and Hengorm Bay and they had been abandoned by the rains.  At this time of year showers scudded across the sea from the north, letting boats make the journey by going directly across instead of skirting around the Sea's fringes and adding weeks to the journey.  The wind hadn't abandoned them, but this week there were no rain clouds and that meant that there was no rain, which explained why The Star of Alawear was running unexpectedly low on water.
Captain Faroche trusted Jaq and knew that he was not the man to lie about what he could see from his vantage point.  She had sailed with such a person when she had been apprenticed to Captain Mallerd and the experience had made her cautious in her hiring practices.  If Jaq reported that he saw no land or rain, then that was because there was none to see.  She consulted the charts, looked at the moon, and calculated the tides.  Nothing in her observations of the sea's behaviour made her think that land might be closer than Hengorm Bay.  She calculated how much water was left, urged everyone to drink sparingly of what there was, and issued the cheap spirits for handwashing.
At sunset she made an offering to the Mermother and the Wind Lass of ship's biscuit and a bottle of the good spirits, and asked for rain to replenish their barrels or guidance to an unmarked island with potable water.
The four passengers, gentlemen from Alawear who had wanted swift passage across the Sea so they could attend to some business of theirs, looked on disapprovingly.  Their approval didn't bother Captain Faroche, partly because she knew that they had been using more than their share of the water supplies ever since the boat had left port.  She had given the usual speech about conservation of water at sea , but the four men had continued to act as if the stuff was on tap.
After the sun was completely down the captain remained on deck to make sure that none of the passengers decided to help themselves to the offering spirits, a stout fortified wine from the upland vineyards that lay east of Alawear.  Land lovers tended to have no respect for the sailors' gods, preferring the stability of the Black and Brown robed priests, and sometimes disrespect led to foolishness.
Because she had made the offering, because she was up anyway, and because she was worried, Captain Faroche stood the watch herself that night.  She steered the boat herself by star and compass, and so was as certain as she could be that they hadn't gone astray from their route when she found the island where there should have been no island.
It was an island of sand ringing a platform of rock.  Not a tall platform, and the entire island was almost round and about two lengths of the boat across.  A less diligent watchkeeper might have missed it.  A captain who hadn't offered to the sea gods at sunset would have dropped anchor and checked for a water supply in the morning.  Captain Faroche dropped the anchor, woke her crew but not the passengers, then sent Jaq and the cook ashore with torches to see if there was freshwater on the island.
She watched from the deck as the two of them climbed the rock.  The boat was close enough for her to see them use the dipper they'd taken with them to sample a liquid they found in the centre of the platform.  She also saw that they didn't spit it out and that they carefully poured the remainder back from whence it came.  One did not waste the gifts of the gods.  The two men came back to the boat, took the water barrels ashore one at a time, refilled them, and returned each to the boat before taking the next.  The sea gods could be capricious, and it was well to remember that.
Jaq and the cook worked well together, and the water barrels were refilled before dawn.  The eastern sky was beginning to lighten when, her crewmen and the water safely on board, Captain Faroche had herself carefully lowered to the island's edge in a cargo net so that she could lay a second offering, this time in thanks, on the edge of the sand before being lifted back onto the ship.  The anchor was raised, and the boat sped on its way with a fresh breeze behind it.  A few minutes later, when the captain looked back the way they'd come she could see no sign of the island.
The passengers woke after sunrise and had their usual breakfast.  Then one of them wanted to shave.
"I would rather that you didn't," said the captain quietly.  "We were...fortunate in the night to find an island with a spring.  With this dry weather, I'd rather not take the risk of running dry again."
"I must be clean," protested the land lover.
"You can be clean with a beard," pointed out Captain Faroche.  "Or you can use sea water."
"I must cleanse myself for three days before our arrival," the man said calmly.  "I must be fit to be in the presence of the virtuous when we arrive.  Salt water is what we use to wash the dead, and sea water is salt.  I cannot use it."
"Provision of water for ritual cleansing is not in our agreement," replied Captain Faroche.  "Your cleansing will have to wait until we reach port."
"That will set our venture back three days."  The man was indignant.
"Three days late is better than three days dead," pointed out the captain.  "Lack of drinking water will do that to you."
"You do not understand."  He looked at the captain pityingly and added, "How could you when you still believe in such foolish rituals?"
The man was beginning to seriously annoy her.  "I am the one who got us drinking water when we were almost out, but you are the one who thinks that cleaning himself with salt water will make him the same as a dead man.  Is being able to do business as soon as you get into port so important that you would rather die than not be ready as soon as we tie up?"
One of his friends intervened then and drew him away with soft words and apologetic glances at the captain.  Captain Faroche left the man to his friends to monitor and made sure that one of her crew was always on deck to watch the barrels .  She arranged the rest of the crew's duties for the day, sent the cook and Jaq to catch up on their sleep, and then took herself to her own bunk.
She woke to the screams of wind and of a man.  When she reached the deck, the man who would be clean was being stretched between the hands of a creature made of water.  A barrel lay empty on its side on the deck and a sheen of water lay across the deck where its precious load had spilled.  The barrel lid and a large metal jug lay on the deck under the passenger’s feet.  The crewmember set to watch the water was on his hands and knees, retching like a man who'd been seriously gut punched, or at least hit in the solar plexus.  The water being seemed to be trying to pull the passenger in two.  If the captain was reading the signs of what had happened correctly, then she would be very happy to have the disciplining of the transgressor taken over by a divine agent.  On the other hand, a death on board from divine retribution was going to mean lots of paperwork.  The water creature looked to have the upper body of human woman and a coiled lower half that seemed to be both fish and serpent.
"Stop screaming and apologise for wasting the water," Captain Faroche told the passenger sharply just as his companions arrived on deck.  "Of course, if she kills you for it then I won't have to flog you for disobeying my orders."
He screamed again.  One of his friends hit the deck on his knees in front of the water being and began pleading for the man's life.  The friend laid a pouch of tobacco, a pipe, and a flint with steel on the deck between him and the victim and continued to beg.
The water creature paused, looked at the offering, and made one last sudden jerk on her victim that produced the sound of a breaking bone.  She dropped her victim to the deck, grabbed the offering, and was gone over the railing into the sea in a flash.  The land lover who'd pleaded for his friend had, sensibly, prostrated himself as soon as the offering was taken.
The victim had stopped screaming and was crying on the deck, one arm in completely the wrong place.
"That," said Captain Faroche when she was a position to stand over him, "is why we do not disrespect the sailors' gods.  Ever.  Our sailmaker will do what he can for your injury, but we'll all be on short water until we get to port.  I don't want to see you out of your cabin until then, and then I never want to see you again.  You can find another way home when your business is done."  She gestured for her crew to take him away.  Then she turned to the man who was still flat on his face on the deck and said, "You can get up now, she's gone."
He rolled over on his back and said, "This is why I didn't go to work on my uncle's farm.  The hooved gods are just like that. Only not made of water, and with hooves.  A nice quiet town life was what I wanted."  He sat up, then stood and bowed.  "My apologies, ma'am, for my companion's actions.  He should not have done any of the things that he did today.  The best that can be said is that he takes his duties to the religion of the towns very seriously."  He shook his head and added, "I don't think that any of them have seen any of your gods or the hooved gods before.  I can hope that they don't think belief in them foolish anymore."
"You did well to rescue him," replied Captain Faroche, "but that wasn't the Mermother or the Wind Lass.  It was one of the ocean spirits that serves the Mermother, and just because one has gone, it doesn't mean that there won't be more if we disrespect the gods' gift again."
The man shuddered.
Captain Faroche smiled to herself and asked, "So, what did you say your name was?"  She didn't think she'd heard it and hadn't bothered to ask.  Partly, because the passengers' requirement for a fast passage had made her suspect that she didn't want to be in possession of relevant details if anyone came asking.
"Rodrigue Fabriticus," he replied, taking a sharp look at her.
She asked, "Would you care to take wine with me over lunch, Rodrigue Fabriticus?  We could discuss what the town gods might want of men.  Out here, where it's safe to do so."
The corner of his mouth quirked.  "Rumours, gossip, and hearsay?  I would love to, Captain Faroche. I hear that the nearest town is still several days sailing away."
rix_scaedu: (Elf)

This follows on from Part 2 and runs to 3,251 words.

The light of dawn revealed no lurking, massive animals, but something had been rooting in the earth on either side of the track in the gully. That sign was accompanied by perfectly normal, if massive, porcine hoof marks and more of the castings that Liavan had seen the previous afternoon. Liavan went soberly back to the cottage to water her beginnings of a garden and begin work on the enchantment that should allow her to travel easily to market days. If it didn't work, then every market day trip would take three days and involve two nights in an inn as well as a lot of walking.

Read more... )
Part 1.
Part 2.
This is Part 3.
Part 4.
Part 5.


rix_scaedu: (Elf)

This follows on from Part 1 and comes in at 3,435 words.

Liavan woke to the sound of rain outside. She lay there quietly for a few minutes getting where she was sorted out in her mind because her first thought was that she was still in her room in her parents' house and that she would have to go around the house checking that all the south facing windows were closed because that was where the weather usually came from. Then she remembered where she was and that she had overhanging eaves, and then she got up anyway to check the windows because she didn't know that the amount of overhang would be enough. After checking the windows, dressing, having breakfast, and going outside to make sure that the water falling on the roof was draining into the tanks the way it was supposed to, Liavan sat down at her work room table to figure what she was going to do next.

Read more... )Part 1
This is Part 2
Part 3. 


rix_scaedu: (Elf)
Back in September 18 I put out a prompt call and zianuray over on LJ tipped me for a second story. It was supposed to be 300 words. The original prompt is here.  Well, after 28,800 words, I have finished what is probably the first of four parts. This is set in the same world, and on the same continent as Consequences and this part runs to 3,268 words.


Liavan was starting her garden from scratch.  She'd marked out where she wanted the beds to be, and now she was lifting the sod from the first one.  That wasn't all it took, of course.  The sod was couch, which showed that someone else had lived here once even if there was no sign left of any habitation.  The sod was going out along the track verge that led past where she had erected her little house, all four rooms plus the attic, water tanks for rain collection, the outhouse, and the simple, low fence with her carefully stored up hoard of magic.  It hadn't been easy, but she had done it.  The hardest part of it had been gathering together everything she needed in the face of people, particularly her family, not understanding why she needed things.  She had lived in dread of her mother finding her thimbral, the round piece of lead crystal that she stored her magic in, and deciding that it was an ornament that ought to be displayed openly on a shelf in the family's parlour where she couldn't use it. 

Read more... )
This is Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3



rix_scaedu: (cat wearing fez)
 For those ofyou who thought Eliane's concern re muck piles was overstated, I have this.
rix_scaedu: (Flower person)
 Here, following on from In the Service of the Cow-eyed Goddess: Part 3 is the fourth and final part of this story.  This story came out of my reading a thread by @NeotlithicSheep on Twitter.  This post runs to 2,084 words.

When Eliane woke she thought she felt surprisingly rested for someone who’d had an important conversation with a deity in her sleep.  She and Helire decided to go and see the cows before breakfast and found Second Cousin Herome in the cowstalls checking on his ox.  Eliane offered to help the team who were doing the shovelling out, but was waved away with their thanks because, they said, all the shovels were in use.  A turn past the muck pile was ruled out because Herome, who’d joined them after he’d finished with Smoke, wanted to try and catch Great Uncle Banning at breakfast.  According to Herome, Great Uncle had left their room after dinner to catch up with some old friends and not returned since.  Apparently Eliane’s great uncle had asked Herome for space on the cart on the way home for some seed, and Herome wanted to clarify as soon as he could whether ‘some’ meant a few pounds or several hundredweight.

Breakfast was in the same communal dining hall as dinner and far more informal.  Instead of servers bringing platters and bowls to the dining tables, the food was placed on a side table running the length of the room and everyone served themselves before sitting down at a dining table.  That was the intention, but Eliane saw one poor man eating his entire meal standing just out of reach of the dining tables because people kept talking to him.  She was considering whether she was bold enough to rescue a stranger from other strangers when the gong sounded to warn everyone that it was almost time for the morning service.

Eliane found herself a seat on the wall end of a row, under a carving of sheep and goats.  Helire and Herome were with Great Uncle Banning near the aisle of the row in front of her but the people already in the row Eliane was sitting in had refused to shuffle down and she’d had to push past their knees to get a spot.  Once she was seated, she realised why no-one had moved – the spot she was in had half its view of the sanctuary blocked by load-bearing architecture.  She sat quietly in her place and listened to the choir sing the morning order, recited the day’s prayers with everyone else, and passed the serving salver of devotional elixir on quickly when it came to after taking her a sip cup for herself.

Like everyone else, Eliane held the sip cup on the palm of her hand to warm the liquid in the small bowl-shaped vessel through the thin porcelain.  The priest leading the service, who was also the man Eliane had considered rescuing at breakfast, intoned the standard introduction to the sermon, and everyone raised their sip cup to their mouth.  At this point most people simply inhaled deeply and let the fumes clear their mind so they could pay full attention to the sermon that they were about to hear.  You could however, if you wished to truly open your mind to the goddess, drink the elixir.  Eliane had done it before, once when she’d asked to be considered for dedication as Skilled and then again at the actual dedication.  She’d found it an interesting experience that had left her senses more receptive and her mind better at processing new information for half a day, but she hadn’t thought it had brought her closer to the goddess….

Rhenasanamofa stepped into her fully awake mind.

I’ll need you to let me run your body for a little while,” said the deity calmly.  I didn’t mention this part of the plan to you earlier so you wouldn’t get anticipation anxiety about it.  Don’t worry, by all that may bind me, I swear that no harm will come to you from this.  If necessary,” she added calmly, “I will provide stout and timely physical intervention on your behalf.

Eliane felt herself moved aside out of the goddess’ way.  “What are you doing, ma’am?”  She could still see and hear what was going on in the temple, but she knew that she was no longer in control of her limbs or her voice.

“Manifesting myself in you, not that anyone else has noticed yet.”  The deity added conversationally, “Theologically speaking, that means you are currently my avatar.  If any of my theologically learned devotees ever start being difficult, you should remind them of that, and that this is the first time I’ve done this in about five of your generations.  What I’m doing with you is a big deal and none of you should forget it.”  She stopped to listen.  Learned Skilled Ordained Lammarac is giving a very sound sermon – I believe we can let him finish before we call attention to ourselves.”

“Ma’am, while we’re waiting may I ask a question?”  Eliane had noticed a change in what she was seeing.

Certainly you may ask,” the goddess answered kindly.  If I don’t want to answer, I’ll tell you and that will be that.  You’ve given me access to everything of you, so you should at least get to ask questions.

“Alright then, why does everyone look so…blurry now?  With different hair colours all at once, and somehow with scales and fangs as well as skin, and,” she trailed off.  “I’m not explaining it well, am I?”

What’s happening,” answered Rhenasanamofa, “is that you are picking up some of how I normally see living things, and you don’t have the experience or the information processing ability to interpret it and understand it.  The other side of the coin is that I’m finding my usual perceptions of the living world somewhat restricted because you don’t have the senses to receive the information about it that I do.  That fuzziness you’re seeing is the surface physical manifestations of each individual body’s possibilities if there were some tweaks in the way processes you can’t perceive work.”

Eliane pointed out, “Some of those possibilities don’t look human.”

A lot of what your kind are and perceive themselves to be is because of a few internal processes being turned on or off,” replied the goddess.  It’s more complicated than that, but your people need to do some more concept development so that you have the language for me to explain it better.  Change those process settings inside a human body and you could wind up with someone who looks like a different person, a different type of being, or whose body doesn’t work at all so they’re dead.”

“Is this related to the way different bits of the brain control different body functions?”  Eliane knew a very little bit about the subject, and most of that knowledge was that there were big discussions about how you could investigate the subject without slipping into monstrous behaviour.

Partly,” replied the goddess, “but a lot of it is in systems that underlie gross body functions like that.”

“Wait, systems that underlie brain function…?”  That was new concept to Eliane.

And liver function, kidney function, and the way your gut works.  Some of them are in the things that make cheese or inhabit your muck piles, but those are much tinier creatures than you.  So small that you can’t see them.  Ah, Lammarac is finishing.”  The goddess added brightly, “Let’s do this.”

They stood when everyone else stood for the blessing and then followed everyone in the row when they made their way into the aisle to walk towards the doors and the rest of the day’s business outside.  Great Uncle Banning and Eliane’s cousins had already moved towards the main doors with the press of the congregation behind them.  The goddess brought Eliane to a stop at the end of the aisle and had her wait.  When everyone else had moved on, the presiding clergy progressed down the aisles towards the doors, splitting into a group for each aisle to do so.

As it happened, and Eliane suspected that it wasn’t accidental, Lammarac was the principal Ordained on her aisle.  As he drew level with her, and Eliane had received some questioning looks from his attendants, the goddess said loudly, “Nice sermon, Lammarac.  Been working on your delivery?”  To Elaine it didn’t sound like her own voice, more like a chorus.  The priest turned to look at Eliane, his face went white, he dropped to his knees and then he prostrated himself on the floor in front of her.

Eliane heard him gasp out, “Divinity!”

Beside Eliane in her head the divine spark said enthusiastically, “Isn’t this fun?  Actually, he doesn’t look half bad from this angle – good muscle development…”

His attendants looked at him, looked at her, one of them swore, and they all copied Lammarac’s position on the floor.

Eliane commented to the goddess, “That looks rather uncomfortable, doesn’t it?”

I am trying to get their attention,” returned Rhenasanamofa.  Ah, here come the others.”

The rest of the presiding clergy arrived to see what their colleagues were doing, looked at Eliane, and also assumed the prone position on the floor.

Now that we’ve established that you acknowledge my presence here today within this young woman,” said the goddess, “you may stand and look upon my avatar, the chosen bearer of my divine spark in this generation and thus my vessel in the prophecy.”

The clergymen and women climbed to their feet.  Eliane noticed that about half of them kept their eyes downcast.  Lammarac and the priest who’d sworn weren’t among them.

The goddess said, “Excuse me, who didn’t understand the instruction to look at this person?  She is fully clothed and neither of us has any intention of disrobing.  Your job is to confirm with your own senses that I am here and to be able to recognise her later when I have left her person.”  The downcast eyes were carefully raised.  There,” Eliane could feel her face smiling as the goddess spoke, “none of you have been struck blind, now have you?”

“Divine lady,” that was one of the other senior Ordained, a woman with steel grey hair, “aside from being able to recognise the person of your avatar, what do you want us to do?

Help her do what I need her to do.  The prophecy embodied in the Chambourian Verses is moving, at long last, and my divine spark needs to be in place to play its parts.  For now, it is my intention that the bearer of my spark will be based here.  You will facilitate this.  I desire that the bearer learns to read, write and speak Navreen in preparation for something else I want her to do.  She has certain other tasks that you need not concern yourselves with, unless she chooses to involve you, but you might ask her about her skills and interests before assigning her chores.  The goddess seemed to be looking significantly at people as she finished speaking.

“Chores?”  That was strangled sounding male voice belonging to someone who hadn’t wanted to look at Eliane.

Of course chores,” replied the goddess.  She is used to physical activity and she has skills that the goose barns, for example, could use.  Almost immediately in fact.  After lunch will be too late.”  Eliane noticed some alarmed looks being passed between a few of the attendant clergy.

The divine spark commented, “Oh, so it’s an on-going problem, is it?  And some of you have been hoping it’ll get better without you doing anything?”

Eliane considered her skills and the goddess’s words.  “Their muck pile is about to catch fire, isn’t it?”

Of course it is.  Please save my geese, I’m very fond of them and I’ve put almost as much work into them as I have into you.”  The goddess smiled at her and then said to everyone, “Now that you all know what you’re supposed to be doing, I’ll go and leave you alone together.  Please keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, that if I decide my spark’s bearer isn’t safe among you, I will have her removed to a place of safety.  And I’m the one who decides if her safety is threatened.  I’m sure that I’ll be dropping in from time to time, just to check up on you all, you understand.

Then the goddess was gone.

Eliane looked at the very senior clergy looking at her, took a deep breath, smiled and said in her own voice, “Well, that was an experience, wasn’t it?  Perhaps we should do something about that manure pile fire before it starts?”

rix_scaedu: (Flower person)
This follows on from In the Service of the Cow-eyed Goddess: Part 2 and comes in at 2,141 words.  As previously stated, this was inspired by a thread by @NeolithicSheep on Twitter.

I hope that you enjoy it.

The trip was, on the whole, uneventful.  There were regular exchanges of blood stock between the two parts of the Bovine Divine Herd and the route was marked with regular camp sites for the cattle and their caretakers.  Travel being what it was, they shared several of the sites overnight with other wayfarers but there was only one group that caused real problems.  The group of travelling labourers who shared their camp site on the fifth night out from home included several blaggardy young men who assumed that female drovers were available for rough and tumble.  Three of them cornered Helire and Eliane on their way back from relieving themselves in private and propositioned them.

The two girls looked at each other and turning back to the men, Helire said loudly, “Well, show us your teeth then.”

“What?  The brown haired one who’d been doing the talking looked surprised.

Helire went on, “How can we decide if we want to keep you if we can’t judge what shape you’re in?”

Eliane, one eye on where Second Cousin Herome was beginning to stand up, added just as loudly and as sprightly, “How many children has your mother had?  Were they all live births?  How many of your siblings are still alive?”

“Look,” said the one with a scar under one eye, “this is the part where you tell us how many coppers it’ll cost us to tumble you.  You don’t get to ask personal questions.”

“Coppers?”  Helire laughed.  “You think that you’re going to get breeding rights with either of us for coppers?  Start talking years of household contribution and we might begin to consider your qualifications as breeding stock.”

The one with blond hair almost shouted back, “That’s not we’re talking about!”

“No?”  Helire snapped.  “It’s the conversation that we’re prepared to have.  If it’s not what you want, then go away and leave us alone.”

Eliane added quietly, because she could see Second Cousin Herome and Learned Brother Ruudmund coming up behind the three men who had them cornered, “It would be better if you choose to leave instead of being made to leave.”

“Skilled Sisters,” Eliane suspected that Ruudmund was deliberately projecting his voice to produce that fruity boom, “are you introducing these young men to the tenets of The Mentor of Those That Work in Life?  Will any of them be joining us on our way to Prothiarn?”

All three of the labourers looked over their shoulders and saw Herome and Ruudmund standing there.  Other members of both groups back around the camp fires were beginning to look in their direction.  The three men looked at each other.

With a smile Eliane added, “The principles that we apply to breeding cows can also be applied to people.”  She smiled.

“You’re priestesses,” the scarred one almost stammered as he said that.  He looked behind him again and added, “Travelling with priests and sacred cows.”

“Skilled Dedicates travelling with family,” corrected Helire.

“I’ll give you the cows,” conceded Eliane.  “You were just going back to your friends, weren’t you?”  She smiled again.

The brown haired one looked over his shoulder and said, “Yeah, we were, boys, weren’t we?”

They slunk away between Herome and Ruudmund to a lot of head shaking from their friends.  “That could have been a risky strategy,” pointed out Learned Ordained Ruudmund, being every inch the group leader and moral mentor.

“It seemed the best option for a situation we didn’t choose,” replied Helire.  “If nothing had worked, well the one with the scar looks like he’s got good wound healing capability and that’s not to be sneezed at.”

Ruudmund looked at Helire for a moment and then said, “I still don’t think you realise how dangerous that could have been,” and went back to their campfire.

There was no further friction, although there was some mutual wariness between the two groups until they broke camp in the morning.  Everyone seemed pleased that they were not all going in the same direction.

By the time they reached Prothiarn, Eliane knew that Helire was planning to stay there and study for the priesthood.  That did explain the amount of luggage that she’d brought along.  Eliane kept her envy that she’d been able to openly leave home to herself.  Helire, also had no-one among the cousins that she could safely marry, but her section of the family seemed to think that freed her from the obligation to return home.

“Well, there are five of us, plus two lots of first cousins,” pointed out Helire prosaically.  “we can’t all stay on our farm, some of us have to leave.  Me doing this frees up space all across the family because no-one has to fit me in.”  Eliane suspected that at least one of the male cousins along on the trip had similar issues, but she wasn’t having the types of conversations with them that she’d had with Helire.

Eliane had been expecting the temple at Prothiarn to be much like the one at home, a single storey building with a steep roof to shed the snow or rain and with a cupola-topped tower at each corner to house watch posts, bells, and a dovecot.  It sat in the middle of the community with the meeting hall and the rarely used clerical hostel, the three buildings arranged like the leaf of a clover.  The hostel wasn’t used often because visiting clergy usually stayed with one of the family’s households, the exceptions generating gossip after they’d left, if not sooner.

Prothiarn was like that because it had the same general layout.  It was just much larger.  The temple looked to be three times the height of the temple at home but built with the same proportions.  The meeting hall was longer and wider, as well as having two levels, going by the external windows, but the equivalent of the hostel was a series of buildings linked by covered walkways.  The whole thing was surrounded by fields, paddocks and barns, as if the entire complex was one huge farm.  Fortunately Learned Ordained Ruudmund knew where they were supposed to go, and he led them through the laneways that divided everything up into functional portions.  Eliane could tell what their general direction was, but soon lost track of the route they had taken within the complex.  They passed orchards, grain fields, ungrazed paddocks, broad stretches of vegetable, and herds of parti-coloured sheep and golden horned goats.

The first cows they saw, other than their own, were a herd of dark phase heifers sharing a paddock with a light phase bull, his pale grey hide surrounded by caramel coats of his harem.  The bull looked up from his grazing to watch the group but as none of the cows were bulling and Smoke made no moves towards the caramel-coloured harem, he did nothing else.  Second Cousin Herome and Great Uncle Banning had a conversation on the wagon about the local herd’s condition and conformation, with Great Uncle saying a lot about the pasture the cows were on.

Their destination was only ten minutes beyond that paddock.  They swung into a barn complex, and suddenly there were people everywhere who knew Ruudmund and were greeting them, and Eliane was trying to sort out the faces and names of people she’d never met before.  It didn’t help that she was becoming aware of the divine spark poking at her for attention.  A bustling, golden-skinned member of the Temple Hospitaller’s staff in an Ordained’s robes arrived to organise the new arrivals into accommodation and meals, and then hovered serenely on the edges of everyone getting the cows and Smoke seen to while snatching moments to collect names.  Eliane retrieved her bag from the cart, and then grabbed Helire’s bags too while Helire explained to the golden-skinned Ordained that she wanted to study for ordination herself.

Finally, they were led to the rooms they would be using and Learned Ordained Ruudmund made his farewells so he could return to his own quarters.  The hospitaller gave some very clear directions on where the baths were and how to get to the laundry, reminded them that there would be a warning gong sounded to give them time to get to the evening service that preceded the day’s end meal, and left them to their own devices.  Ten minutes later, Helire and Eliane were in the bath house.

It was glorious with wondrous amounts of hot water.

Then, clean and in fresh clothes, they went to wash their travelling clothes and found that the temple laundresses insisted on taking charge of the chore.  They were given beads strung on a string, one bead for each item, and told to come back the day after next.  When Elaine asked, she was told that ironing was included.

Liberated from their expected tasks, the two girls went to find the way to the temple from their quarters and then back again.  The route involved flower filled courtyards with scents of varying pungency and fragility, and a pond that hosted a type of duck neither girl had seen before.

The warning gong went earlier than they expected, and they hurried back to the temple.  Eliane looked around but couldn’t see any of their cousins, and she let Helire drag her inside so they could find good positions.  The temple had rows of seats, which Eliane didn’t expect because at home you stood or knelt throughout the service.  An usher directed them to a section for visitors and Eliane spent the service entranced as she sat, stood and knelt as required but had her senses loaded with unfamiliar incense, choir singing, and the paintings spaced around the internal walls.  In the back of her mind the divine spark hummed happily.  Helire had to shake her when the service was over to remind her that they had to go and eat.

They ate a meal as good as the one that Eliane normally got at home, and then they went back to their room to sleep.  Elaine expected that it would take her time to drift off but as soon as her head hit the pillow, she was out to the world.

“I expect you want to know,” said the goddess, “now that I’ve gotten you here, how I’m going to arrange for you to stay.”

They were in the place where Eliane had spoken with the goddess before.  This time instead of the red heifer there were ducks and chickens gathered around Rhenasanamofa’s feet while she sorted through a basin of fat, brown seeds.  Eliane thought that they could have been a type of bean.  Every so often a seed went into the clay pot on a table at the deity’s right elbow.  About the same number were tossed onto the ground to be eaten by the birds.  Most of the seeds remained in the bowl.

The goddess added, “By the way this isn’t a metaphorical thing I’m doing here.  I really am sorting seeds for another project I have underway.  Speaking of projects, have you seen a man you like yet?”

“I haven’t looked,” admitted Eliane.  “I’ve been more interested in getting clean, finding my way around and admiring your temple.  It’s glorious!” She threw her arms up and out in a grand gesture to emphasis what she was saying, then remembered who she was talking to and blushed.

“I’m glad you like it,” replied the goddess calmly and kindly.  “Getting those reasonable self-care needs out of the way promptly shows that you are a competent adult, something that is likely to prove desirable to anyone considering you as a potential life mate.  The project I have in mind for you will take a reasonable amount of time and probably involve some travel.”

“And what is it, exactly, ma’am?”  Eliane thought that, perhaps, she might be asked to grow the fat, brown seeds.

“I want you to learn Navreen and then find me an unedited copy of the prophecy in its original language.  Do you know that I’ve never seen one?” The goddess smiled and almost looked feral, “I believe that I should know what it actually says, and not what every translator thinks it says.  None of the full copies I’ve seen have been in Navreen and the ones I’ve seen in Navreen have either been partial copies or edited.”

Eliane asked, “How do I convince the people in charge here to let me stay and do that?  I mean Helire wants to stay and study toward ordination, but I don’t think that’s for me.”

“I’ll do the convincing, replied the goddess firmly.  “You just need to drink that mixture they pass around before the sermon in the morning service.  Her irises turned yellow and her rectangular pupils made it clear that she was not human.  “I believe that they will be very convinced.”

This is now followed by Part 4.

rix_scaedu: (Flower person)
 This follows on from In the Service of the Cow-eyed Goddess: Part 1Thanks to an inadvertent prompt from @NeolithicSheep on Twitter back in June 18, I wound up writing 8,880 words of story. This part contains a font change to indicate something particular in the story, and I have no idea if the font change in my document is going to show up anywhere that the document is posted. Whether or not my attempt at cleverness is visible to you at all, this portion of the story runs to 2,546 words.

I hope you all enjoy it.

The thing that Eliane hadn’t expected was the overhaul of her wardrobe that happened later that afternoon.  “I know you’ve had those boots long enough to get them well broken in,” said her grandmother critically, “but are they going to be enough to get you to Prothiarn and back?  And where’s your best outfit?  You’ll need it for attending services while you’re there.”

Eliane asked, “Does it really matter?”

Her aunt closed the door and leaned back against it, then looked at her mother, Eliane’s grandmother.

Eliane’s grandmother took a deep breath and began with, “You know how we like to marry inside the family and we keep the Blood Books to make sure we don’t marry too closely?”  Eliane nodded.  “Well, as each of you get old enough, we go through our Book and work out who your possible matches are.”  Her grandmother took a deep breadth and went on, “You’re too closely related to everyone for marrying any of the available men to be a good idea.  Being married can be a wonderful thing, with the right person, and not being doomed to only have dead babies helps.  This trip to Prothiarn is your best chance to meet someone suitable that you like.  Clothes help make good impressions.”

Eliane looked at her aunt, who nodded in confirmation.  “So, I’m going to Prothiarn to deliver some cows and find a husband?”

“From a certain point of view,” agreed her aunt with a nod of her head and a twinkle of amusement in her eye.  “This is just us making sure that you have all the tools you might need for both jobs.”

Later that night, Eliane moved from a dreamless sleep into something that wasn’t really wakefulness.  The sky above her was clear and the light had all the qualities of midday in early autumn, even though the sun wasn’t visible in that clear sky.  The air temperature held the warmth of early autumn too, and somewhere close there were enough bees that Eliane could hear them buzzing.  In front of her, on her left hand, was a planting of an unfamiliar crop; ranks of tall segmented stems as thick as her forearm, each row separated from the others by a space wide enough for a person to walk down, each stem segment joint having both a panicle heavy with purple grain hanging from it and two broad green leaves thrusting up and out.  On her right, splendidly rainbow-coloured geese browsed through a short pasture heavy with unfamiliar flowers and seed pods.  In the centre of the scene, seated on a stool made of moving things that might have been vines was…the goddess.

Elaine prostrated herself on the mixture of pasture grasses and other plants, narrowly missing a blackthorn thistle with her face.  The broad-faced, brown-eyed deity continued talking to the red heifer she was stroking for a few moments more, then said in voice that echoed in Eliane’s mind, “Please get up, my dear.  I know you don’t remember our previous conversations, but in the future, please don’t do that every time you come here.”

Eliane stood and asked, “Our previous conversations, ma’am?”

The generous mouth on the wise, beautiful, inhumanely-proportioned face smiled.  “Yes, we’ve spoken a number of times.  Usually here,” Rhenasanamofa gestured to indicate their surroundings with the hand that wasn’t being used to rub the black-horned heifer behind the ears.  “It is the one of my workspaces that you are most comfortable in.  But not remembering our conversations?  That’s part of what I did to your mind’s perceptions so that you didn’t know that you are carrying my spark.”

“Why did you do that, ma’am?”  Eliane had always wondered why the identity of the spark-bearer was a secret.

The goddess sighed.  “I’m afraid that several of your predecessors weren’t very nice people.  I picked Iorcan to take up the mantle after those righteous mabheads massacred the dwimmerweavers, including the then spark bearers, because he was the only surviving descendent of my previous last spark bearer.  Although he was definitely born with magic, he wasn’t detected by the zealots’ magic hunters, and he never exhibited any magical ability afterwards.  I don’t know how he did it, but I suspect that he tied it up in something big.  His children didn’t have any magic either but,” the goddess glowed with enthusiasm, well Eliane hope it was enthusiasm, “but some of your family do show signs….  I suspect it’s to do with the cousin marrying cousin thing that you’ve got going on, something that did not come from me.  Your aunt, for instance, really can talk to developing cheese which is even more remarkable when you consider what she’s doing to achieve that.  Blood line breeding is so interesting!”

Feeling that the goddess may have gotten off the topic she’d been meaning to talk about, Eliane asked respectfully, “Is that why you hid your spark from us, ma’am?”

“Sorry, I’m afraid it is easy for me to drift off into subjects that are related to my bee-alda, my existential essence.”  Rhenasanamofa smiled and went on, “Iorcan’s idiosyncrasies were probably due to having most of his close friends and family murdered, but his daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter had no excuses for the way they treated other people.  My long-term fix was to breed for better temperament, as well as health, intelligence, and reproductive viability, but I needed a short-term fix too.  So, I made it so no-one knew who the spark bearer was, especially not the spark bearer themselves.  That took away the alleged root of the problem.”  She shook her head.  “There may have been a better way, but the substance and function of life are my sphere, not social engineering or outright mental manipulation that’s not aimed at reproductive behaviours.”

“And now ma’am?”  Eliane thought she knew what the answer was.

“After things went so badly wrong the first time, most of us got together and petitioned Hlactea, the patron of predictions and oracles, for guidance.  She was,” added Rhenasanamofa, “peeved that we asked for something that she couldn’t calculate with measurements and mathematics.  I recall that she told us that we deserved whatever it was that we were going to get.  What we got was a money lender’s clerk who only spoke and wrote Navreen writing out a hundred and one five-line verses of not very good poetry that gave us events, milestones and an order to it all.”  The goddess pouted.  “Hlactea and the Silence Under the Hills both seemed amused.  Anyway, my spark doesn’t get bred into the, the divine conceptus that we’re making for many human generations yet but there is a verse much earlier than that about my spark and Sluan’s spark doing something in the place where my spark will be living.  I’m not sure what it’s all about, but it must be important, or it wouldn’t be in the prophesy.”

“So, you need me to go to Prothiarn so one of my spark-bearing descendants can meet the bearer of the spark of Sluan,” finished Eliane.  “About that descendant thing, you know I’ve never been much interested in boys and stuff, don’t you?”

“Given how closely you’re related to all the possible men around your home, I count that as a good thing,” replied the goddess.  “I must say, I was impressed by your grandmother and aunt.  I thought they were going to tell you not to be swept off your feet by some strange young man, and to make sure you got back home unimpregnated.  Instead they practically told you to go looking for a good stud.”

Eliane flushed and protested, “That’s not what they said.”

“They might as well have,” retorted Rhenasanamofa, “and I am.  We’re after a good constitution with lots of disease resistance, intelligence, a good disposition, and a family background of nice, broad birth canals.”

“So, no-one with a big head,” snapped Eliane tartly.  Then she realised something, “Wait, I’m part of an actual breeding plan?  That’s…actually way more appealing than ‘just go out and find a suitable man’ is.  Do you have any physical conformation standards?  Desirable patterning and colouration?”

The goddess chortled.  “That’s my girl!”

Eliane woke in the morning with a clear recollection of the conversation in the night.  The trip to Prothiarn wouldn’t begin for a few days yet, so her normal chores were still to be done, but the appeal of finding a suitable husband was beginning to grow on her.  She had truly never been interested in any of the boys and young men she knew, all cousins in some degree, in any way that might result in children.  With lists of necessary and desirable attributes to check off, the whole concept seemed far more interesting and achievable.  She also recalled that parts of her wardrobe were going to be updated before she left…

She was up and getting dressed when her aunt tapped on her door.  “Don’t get fully dressed,” she said through the door when Eliane acknowledged her.  “We need to measure you up before you start work.  That way we can check the fit of your new shirts and chemise before you start shovelling out the cowshed, and we should be ready to start on the kirtle after lunch.”

Eliane opened the door at that and asked, “When was it decided I’m getting a new kirtle?  I barely worn the one I’ve got!”

Her aunt smiled.  “Oh good, you’re already decent.  You can come downstairs with me now.  Your grandmother decided in the night that you haven’t been wearing the kirtle you have because it wasn’t a flattering colour on you.  Not nearly as flattering as your best vest and jacket.”

“Well, it was picked out so that not all of us were wearing the same thing,” pointed Eliane.  “And I was the one who agreed to use the last of that particular bolt.  I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to get much chance to wear it at the time.”

“I know,” her aunt acknowledged as she began to usher the younger woman to the stairs, “and then we found that flaw in the cloth that we had to work around, and I was never happy with the way it sat on you.  It always looks slightly uncomfortable when you wear it.”

“Does it?”  Eliane admitted, “I just thought that because I didn’t like the way it felt it meant that I don’t like wearing kirtles.”

“That’s possible,” conceded her aunt, “but let’s make sure that this one does what it’s supposed to do so that you have a proper base for coming to a conclusion.”

The rest of Eliane’s day was normal, except for clothes fittings.  Elaine wasn’t a skilled seamstress, so she did what she was told while people who knew what they were doing did things with pieces cut from old sheets to get the fit right before they cut the dress cloth.  Cousin Liveen, who wore her hair in a bun and had a small purplish birthmark on her cheekbone under the outer corner of her right eye asked peevishly at one point, “But why didn’t you say that your old kirtle didn’t fit properly?”

“I thought it was because I didn’t like wearing kirtles,” admitted Eliane again, “and you all worked so hard on it, I didn’t want to be ungrateful.  Besides, you had so much to do at the time, I didn’t want to make things worse.”

“Goddess preserve us.”  Cousin Liveen covered her face with her hands.  “None of that means you had to put up with it for two years!  If you’d said something, there are things we could have done.  No-one in this family has to wear their work clothes all the time.”  Then she’d gone back to pinning worn-thin linen into place to get the fit right under Eliane’s arms.

It took three days to get the cows and heifers that were being moved together from all the subherds and for their human escort to assemble.  Great Uncle Banning was coming too, riding on the ox-drawn wagon that would carry everyone’s bags and the food supply.  The trip to Prothiarn, moving at the cattle’s pace, would take fifteen days, including a rest day.  The selection of cows and heifers included both light and dark phase animals, so the herd was a mixture of fawn and caramel coloured bodies all topped by heads carrying arm-long, inward curving black horns.  The ox was a light phase bullock, so his pale grey hide stood out from the others, but his horns were just as long and black.

There were more humans in the group than the task ought to need.  Learned Brother Ruudmund needed to go back to Prothiarn, of course.  Each of the family farms that had raised the animals being moved had sent along two people, so that was eight, plus Second Cousin Herome who was driving the cart because he didn’t trust anyone else with his ox, Smoke.  Smoke was coming because Grandfather’s First Cousin Elver had volunteered him and their farm’s cart to make sure they could carry everything they all needed to take with them, particularly as his granddaughter, Third Cousin Helire, seemed to have three times the luggage of everyone else.

Helire was much of an age with Eliane and wore her hair the same length, and within the space of two days everyone realised that Learned Brother Ruudmund couldn’t tell them apart.  “But you all have the same face,” he complained when Herome made a joke about it while they were eating dinner.  “There’s the male version and the female version, but it’s all the same face.  I mean, some of you have moles or birthmarks, and there are different haircuts or beards for the men, but after that, if you’re in similar clothes, I can’t tell you apart.”

Helire indicated Eliane and protested, “But we’ve got different coloured eyes!”

“They’re both dark colours,” pointed Learned Brother Ruudmund, “and there are social issues about me getting close enough to tell the difference.”

Eliane realised, “So that was why you didn’t use names much when you were staying with us – you couldn’t pick who was who.”

“Um, yes,” admitted Ruddmund.  “I realise that makes me a bad guest, but I really couldn’t.”

“When I first started travelling with the Learned Skilled Ordained Philyana,” reminisced Great Uncle Banning from his place from the other side of the fire, “I had trouble telling who was who because everyone looked different and the variation was overwhelming.”  He paused and then added, “Then I met people from down near the mouth of the river and different skin tones became a thing….”

Helire started wearing a fresh field flower behind her ear every day while Eliane knotted a bandana around her neck, and Ruudmund seemed less confused.

The divine spark was amused.  Perhaps you want one with better pattern recognition that that?” it sniggered in the back of Eliane’s mind one morning when Ruudmund was temporarily confused before breakfast.  Mind you, Learned Brother Ruudmund does seem to come with a slightly better than usual overall standard mental package.  Perhaps this whole breeding out thing should have happened a generation or so ago?

Eliane didn’t know what to say to that so she didn’t say anything.

This is now followed by
Part 3.

rix_scaedu: (Flower person)
 Back in Jun 18 @NeolithicSheep on Twitter had a thread  that, among other things, talked about the Ancient Greek use of the phrase 'cow-eyed' to describe goddesses.  Despite what the Ancient Greeks actually meant, my mind went to 'what if they meant that literally?" and then, 'hang on, I have a universe where that would be true' which is how I wound up with a 8,880 word story.  @NeolithicSheep was kind enough to tell me about cow horns partway through the writing process and it was a great help.

This is set in the world of the Chambourian Verses, which can be found
here on Dreamwidth or here on Live Journal
.  This story takes place after "Tasking" and "In Which A Job Is Handed Out."  Part 1 runs to 2,113 words.

Eliane hadn’t slept well in the night, but the rhythmic hard work of shovelling the fresh dung out of the cow stalls was helping.  She’s started the day feeling restless and unsettled, and the familiar routine of work that had to be done for the animals’ well being was dispelling that feeling.  Not even the arrival of someone important enough for her grandmother to emerge from the farmhouse and add her shrill greeting to her husband’s and son’s gruff and respectful tones was enough to agitate her again.

Besides, no visitor was going to meet Eliane in the middle of this job, unless they were buying cow manure or selling shovels.

Once the dung was removed from the cowshed and added to the latest pile in the pens out the back of the farmyard, the fresh straw and sawdust spread, and her tools were cleaned, Eliane’s after milking chores were done.  There was just time for her to make sure her hands were clean, and then harvest the ready leaves from the everlasting greens section of the garden before lunch.  She delivered the basket of greens to her aunt at the kitchen door, and then went back through the kitchen garden and out into the yard to get to what her family called the farmyard door.  Taking the long way around meant that she could leave her work boots in the mudroom that was a buffer between the yard and the rest of the house.

Passing the herb patch on her way, she absentmindedly broke off the growing tip off a twig of red-leaved shamosay, put it in her mouth, and started chewing.

She didn’t realise what she’d done until all that was left was the unappetising wad of fibres from the stem.  She took it out of her mouth with her fingers, looked at the pale pink bundle that could only be shamosay, and began to panic; the plant was poisonous, and she had no idea why she’d eaten a piece, nor any memory of putting it in her mouth.

I must say,” the voice in her head was not the one of her own thoughts but it was somehow familiar, “you are sensible, and thus very hard to get to put things you don’t think are food in your mouth.  Do you have any idea how difficult it was to get you to chew on that?

“Who are you?”  Eliane was alone in the washroom and so she spoke aloud, albeit quietly, to keep her own words somehow more separate from the voice in her head.

“You know that divine spark of The Mentor of Those That Work in Life that your family has been carrying around inside them all these years?”  The voice chuckled, “Well, that’s me.  Congratulations, you are the Bearer of your generation.”

“But my grandmother, she’s the Bearer, everyone says so!”  Eliane stopped and then asked, “Nothing’s happened to her, just now, has it?”

“No, your grandmother is fine,” the voice assured her.  “And everyone only says that she’s the Bearer because she’s claimed to be so long and loudly that these days they think she knows what she’s talking about.  She was never the Bearer, and she’s convinced herself that she is based on some self-serving reasoning.  It was your mother who was the Bearer before you, and when she died I passed to you.  Your father’s line separated from the Bearer’s four generations back through your grandfather and six through your grandmother.”

“My mother’s been dead most of my life,” pointed out Eliane.  “Why are you talking to me now?”

“It’s time to stop hiding quietly out of sight,” said the voice.  “The prophecy is finally moving on, and I need to be moved into position.  Over lunch matters will be worked out so you will be escorting some heifers to the big temple at Prothiarn – all you will need to do is not object.  You’ll need to pack everything that you want to keep but given the length of the trip there and back, doing that shouldn’t get anyone agitated.”

Eliane demanded, “What prophecy?”

“We don’t have time for that now,” said the voice firmly.  “Now, go and have a big lunch and drink lots of water.  Oh, and you’ll need to open your bowels fairly violently in about an hour and a half.”

“I could have taken a dose of constipation syrup to do that, instead chewing on raw shamosay,” pointed out Eliane tartly.

“The bowel opening part wasn’t what you needed to open the lock in your mind,” the spark told her primly.  “Now, go and eat.”

Everyone at lunch was bumped down a place at the table except Eliane’s grandparents.  The guest, a priest of the Mentor named Ruudmund, was seated between her grandfather and uncle, and opposite her grandmother.  Eliane’s father and aunt rounded out the top of the table.  Great-Uncle Banning, who’d gone off on pilgrimage when he was younger and returned a decade later dedicated to developing better pasture plants, sat in his usual place at the foot of the table and the space in between was filled with Eliane and the cousins of varying degree who worked on the farm.  Eliane ate a little more than usual for her and drank more water, while at the head of the table the priest was plied with the first choice from each serving platter and was given citrus cordial to drink.

At the end of the meal her grandfather turned to the table at large and said loudly, “Wait a moment everyone, we have an announcement to make concerning the Learned Ordained Ruudmund’s visit.”  He turned to the priest, “Would you care to explain the reason for your visit, Learned Brother Ruudmund?”

“Thank you, Skilled Brother Almo,” the younger man smiled gratefully at Eliane’s grandfather who was, like most of their extended family including Eliane herself, a Skilled Dedicate of the Mentor.  “I would be most happy to.”  He turned to the rest of the table, “As you have probably heard, Jonan the Sun Emperor has claimed the seer of the Silence Under the Hills as his bride, and the temple in which she lived collapsed as soon as she left its grounds.  It turns out that the priests of the Sun God have spent generations building a network of treaties through the foothill kingdoms and duchies that have activation clauses like ‘when the Sun Emperor claims his bride’, so almost overnight Jonan’s Empire went from Jokkiel’s temple holdings plus Meshtinbar, Uustridge, Pellchase, and a dozen odd duchies that had pledged to his family for protection from bandits, to most of the western headwaters of the great river.  There’s a prophecy that says his empire will cover half the world, and it seems the priests of Jokkiel are working to make it come true.”

He made a face of distaste and went on, “Consequently, we are expecting a period of disruptions while the empire expands.  Just to insure against unfortunate incidents, we’re spreading out the Divine Herds and Flocks; expanding their numbers and locations.  Cows from here and two bulls from Prothiarn will go to a new farm in the upper Guadalfambra valley.  The lands there cleave to the Duchy of Ondon which is already within the empire’s orbit, so we expect things there to remain calm and settled.  Two bulls from here and cows from Prothiarn will go to another new farm near Charoix, up on the Balan Ranges.  It should be a generation or two before the empire bothers going up there.”

“Excuse me, Learned Brother,” that was Cousin Gwelifra who wore her hair in twin braids, “but were many people hurt when the temple collapsed?  I’ve heard that it is, perhaps was, the size of a large village.”

“That’s one of the things that has everyone talking,” admitted Learned Brother Ruudmund.  “No-one was hurt.  The emperor assumed that this Chambourian Verse prophecy thing meant exactly what it said and used his soldiers to enforce an evacuation of the entire complex.  The place collapsed in front of them and no-one was inside it.  Gossip says that the former high priest took himself off somewhere on his own the next day, but news said a lot of the clerical staff are going to some university-thing the emperor is setting up in his capital.”

He sighed.  “Important members of the senior clergy are excited about both the prophecy and the university-thing, and I can understand that, but no-one has explained the prophecy to me, so I can’t explain it to you.”

Thanks and blessings for that,” said the divine spark acerbically in Eliane’s mind.  You could probably make good money taking bets on which of your extended family would get to Prothiarn first if they knew what it was about.  What we don’t want is a fuss about who goes-.

“Send young Eliane to help take the cattle along,” recommended Great-Uncle Banning from his place on Eliane’s left plus two.  “She’s the only one who hasn’t had a trip since her Dedication.  She’s a neat hand at managing the muck pile, but that’s no reason for her not to see more of the world.  Besides, it would be a good idea if a few more people her age on this farm had experience with keeping the thing in line.”

“It was out to get me,” said Eliane’s aunt.

“You let it catch on fire,” pointed out her brother, Eliane’s father.

“I didn’t let it do anything,” she tossed her single braid back over her shoulder with one hand.  “It charged ahead and did what it wanted despite my best efforts.  Cheese is a more sensible thing to work with.  You can reason with cheese.”

You can reason with cheese, dear,” her husband teased.  “It’s not something that works for the rest of us.”

Everyone else at the table laughed, giggled, or at least smiled, even Learned Brother Ruudmund who looked like he wasn’t quite sure why he was smiling.  Then Eliane’s grandmother said, “I think Banning is right, no matter who else goes we should send Eliane.  As you’ve come here, Learned Brother, I suppose that at least some of our heifers will be going to the Guadalfambra valley?  Will more be coming from the other subherds our family’s families look after?”

“I wasn’t one of the people making the selection, Skilled Sister Liadra,” replied the priest, “but I’m told that they selected the animals in question with a view to establishing a vigorous bloodline and a herd with experienced animals to guide it from the beginning.”

“So, you’ll be taking some of the older cows then too,” commented Almo.  Then the conversation moved onto which animals would be going, and Eliane’s participation was an accepted fact.

That went more smoothly than I feared,” commented the divine spark as they left the lunch table.  I hadn’t considered that everyone might already believe that you were owed a trip away.  I was told that it would all work out, but I’ve been inside the minds of members of your family for a long time, and I’ve known more of you than the Bearers: I was worried.”

In her thoughts, Eliane asked, “Who told you?”

My…principal?  Technically, in theological terms, I’m an independent autonomous aspect of Rhenasanamofa, Mentor of Those That Work in Life.  We talk sometimes, well, a lot very recently.  I know you, your predecessors and your wider family very well.  She knows a lot more people.  Eliane got the impression that the divine spark was very happy about all of that in a child-like skipping on her way manner.

“So, do you have a name?”  Under the circumstances, Eliane didn’t want to be rude to the other person in her head.

Rhenasanamofa,” replied the divine spark.  We’re both Rhenasanamofa.  Or perhaps it’s all of us are?  I shall have to ask.”

“That sounds complicated,” allowed Eliane.

And that’s before we go into why I am what I am and what my function is.”  The divine spark giggled and then added in a serious tone, “You have your normal work to do this afternoon and I’m sure that you’ll need start packing tonight, although things won’t be organised for you to leave for a few days yet.  We’ll talk again later.  In the meantime, make sure that you’re near a privy in about three quarters of an hour.  Oh, and plan to take anything you’ll miss if you don’t have it with you when you leave.”  The voice in her head went silent but Eliane thought that there was a background hum to her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed before.

The advice about the privy was very much on point.

This is now followed by Part 2.


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