Vague Excuses…

February totally blew.

Yesterday, Fredman emailed me and asked me where the hell my blog updates have been. I replied that I could say the same for her, and thank you very much, I’ve been swamped at work with a research project for one of the political desk editors. So she writes back and says that first she had two weeks of flu, and now some other damn medical thing going on. I replied, WTF? (basically) and she reminded me that (a) she’s old and (b) not part of a household that includes a goddess that can heal pretty much anything and (c) she’s old.

Well, sucks to be her. And me, too, for that matter, recently. See, all of us except Alex had the damn flu in February for almost three weeks—that’s what you get for sleeping in a great lump with a bunch of other people. *cough* And then of course the children, little disease vectors that they are, brought it home with them from kindergarten. Yay! Little snotty faces that want to kiss Uncle Trent! Kissy-kissy-achoo!

Did I say that we live with a goddess that can heal? Well, apparently Dolores, like every other powerful being we’ve run into, doesn’t think that pain and suffering are a bad thing. What is it with them? I mean, we even called Ariolas, and that damned Elf mage (and Carol’s grandfather) just laughed at us. Dolores had said that we probably needed a break and NyQuil works great when combined with rest. You wouldn’t believe what Jimmy (who had it the worst) said about that. And he was coughing the entire time, too. I didn’t know he could string together that many colorful words! He didn’t say any of that to Dolores’ face, but she sort of knows, anyhow, being herself and all, and connected to us.

Alex was spared, via Sorrows, since she usually keeps the sword-bearer available for guarding us. He felt terrible about that, and bumbled around in the kitchen making chicken soup, over and over. Dolores and I took turns supervising, since Alex tends to forget about boiling pots and frying pans if something shiny passes by him. How someone so smart can be such an idiot in the kitchen, I don’t know. He says it’s because he’s never been fascinated by chemistry. Again, WTF? This is about attention, dude! Well, we managed to keep him on task (even if I was nodding off half the time, thanks to the NyQuil), and the chicken soup was actually edible. I managed to get him to NOT put rosemary into it. He thinks rosemary is pretty, and forgets that it’s nearly too strong to eat as far as most of us are concerned. He doesn’t even like the flavor! OK, I’m going to go punch him, just because

Back again. And yeah, he just laughed at me when I pounded him on the arm. It was that silly laugh that’s so cute, so I smacked him in the chest, which made him laugh even harder. I feel better, at least.

Anyhow. And then March came and with it this project at work. And the weather’s been hot-cold-hot-cold, so we’re all confused. Kerry gives up on winter on March 1st most years, and wears flipflops around the estate even if it’s freezing out. He regretted that when he went to get the mail and papers a time or two. Like Alex, Kerry’s pretty bullet-proof, but he regressed to shearling moccasins after that.

I asked Dolores about the “pain and suffering are OK” thing—not for the first time, mind you. Now, Dolores is not an omniscient or omnipotent sort of goddess, which I hope you’ve understood from the (still unfinished) conversation between Carol and her. She’s powerful, but not all-powerful. She suffers, too. But she’s got an inhumanly long memory and that changes your point of view a lot. I agree with her that pain is a great director for us short-lived. It helps us know what to do and what not to do to stay alive. Suffering teaches us about consequences. But sometimes, shit happens. In the abstract, I agree that it’s not what happens to you when the random fewmets hit the windmill, but how you respond to it that matters. In the short term, it’s pretty obvious why Advil was invented, and why psychiatric therapy is not a bad thing.

“Look at a waving field of flowers,” she said. “If a goat steps on some or eats others, is that a tragedy? Perhaps from the flowers’ point of view. And we, all of us, are a beautiful field of flowers that the Creator made from Itself. It is us. It is experiencing time and space through all of us. To the One, not even the most terrible tragedies have the same impact. They are all part of the marvelous play of consciousness.”

Philosophy can be a thin blanket on a cold winter’s day, can’t it? Still, it helps a little. Maybe. Maybe I’ll just hope that March coming in like a lion doesn’t auger for more blowage! Wish us luck, and let us know how your February went.

*   *   *

And… Holy Carplets, it’s nearly the end of April. What happened? Er…well…I’ll have to make up something. But basically, more of March happened. It was unromantic and way too much work for yours truly. The gang has been wondering if I left them to sleep at the office.

And I keep kicking over Fredman’s anthill in my copious spare time *cough*. She says she’s wrestling with the Book 2 rewrite, since her standards are much higher than when she first wrote it about six years ago. You should see the freaking diagrams she’s drawing to figure things out. On the other hand, you don’t want to. I just say, hey, this is how we lived through it. That particular month of July, 2007 ALSO blew, especially for Kerry and Alex.

Here’s hoping for more forward movement in May!

Ariolas' Research

Principia Magicum

 

Not a College Course

We got to talking about “power” and “magick” at lunch the other day, and that just led to massive confusion and shouting. Carol, who has actually studied more than any of us, has definite opinions. Me (Trent), I have used her conventions in the books we’re publishing. However, both of those words are ambiguous in everyday use. Meaning, you have your own definitions, of course.

So I asked Carol and Dolores to talk with me about this, since I thought you might find it an interesting sidebar to the adventures in the books. You might need to have paid attention in high school or college physics to understand some of this, but probably not.

I have linked to some Wikipedia articles for those of you who want to poke at this some more. They’re not 100% correct, but they’re a start.

Essence is Essential

Dolores had us take tea in the salon up at Gotth Hill one quiet afternoon. That’s where Alex’s piano stands, as I’ve mentioned in the stories. We sat in a civilized fashion around a coffee table while Meri, our butler, fetched us a proper tea tray and cake plates. Mrs. Beall, the under-butler, stood quietly over by the window, making sure we’re all topped up on goodies. Given the quantity of tea that we can consume, my eye teeth would be floating soon.

“OK,” I asked the ladies. “Where do we start?”

As if on cue, they chorused, “Essence.”

“Oh boy. So, explain. What is it, and why do we care?”

Carol waved at Dolores. “You start. You’re the goddess, after all, and that’s your primary business.”

Dolores added a splash of hot milk to her tea and stirred. “Sometimes.” Her smile crept up puckishly. Dolores loves to pull our tails, and I’m pretty sure that she’ll take the opportunity. I wasn’t sure whether she meant she was a goddess sometimes, or that it was her business sometimes. I knew better than to ask. She continued: “It’s has many other names, of course. Western culture isn’t very precise on the subject, which is why you and Brooke almost came to blows about nomenclature, Trent.”

“Not precise outside of an Esoteric School, you mean,” Carol amended.

“Exactly. The European Alchemists, old and new, call Essence the First Matter. That’s because it is not so much matter as the raw potential to create matter.”

“It’s all energy, then?” I said.

“As in the potential to do work? Yes,” Carol said. “But it’s more than that. It’s also the potential to create living matter as well. It’s…not just a concept or a way of measuring potential. It’s real stuff.”

“I know. We’ve seen you feed Essence to the demons in the house,” I said to Dolores, who nodded. “You told us at the beginning that the definition of a god was ‘a being that is a source of Essence.’”

“Alright,” Carol said. “Your readers, if they have any familiarity with common yoga, have heard about prana. That’s another name for it. So is Shakti. Once you think of it as Shakti, you realize it’s everywhere and in everything. Warzie geeks might think of it as ‘the Force,’ although it has nothing to do with the complications of Lucas’s later movies.” She snorted. “Midchlorians, bah.”  Did I mention Carol is a real geek, as well as a mage? She’s also a snobby Star Wars purist. But not to get off topic.

“Life force,” I said, nudging her knee with mine. “But living beings use it to do more than just live.”

“Yes,” Dolores answered. “With more than they need to live, it is possible for some to do more with it. They have to have the proper, let us say, spiritual composition to do so. Not all souls do. It’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s more of an apples and oranges thing,” she hurried to add, gesturing with a scone at me. Then she bit into it. “My compliments to chef, Mrs. Beall,” she said.

“Those are Meri’s,” the butler said quietly. “I’ll convey your compliments.”

“So you’re a being,” I nodded at Dolores, “That is a fount of Essence. Which means you can do miraculous things and give life, heal, and all that stuff we’ve seen you do over the years.”

“And harm as well,” Dolores said. “I’ve done that, too. Essence is neutral. We, the living, give it the flavor of our intentions. We judge the results or its applications. Our Essence takes on the flavor of our personalities.”

“Steering away from ethics for the moment…” I suggested.

“Yes, that would take too long for one afternoon.”

“Then, with this nomenclature,” Carol said, “When I say ‘powerful mage,’ I mean a sapient being that can bring forth and direct a great effing lot of Essence according to his or her will. And that business of bringing forth and directing by means of the will, that’s magick with a K.”

Basic definitions, we haz dems.

Oops, a Lolcat just died…

Never mind. *cough*

“Magic without a K, in our discussions, then, would be prestidigitation or stage magic. The art of illusion.”

Carol nodded. “Yep. As opposed to a glamour—which actually is a use of Essence.”

Dolores continued, “How beings use Essence is a way to classify and understand them.”

Elves, Gods, and Demons

The tea got freshened. I took a bathroom break. Then we got back to our discussion.

“When we were writing Sorrows Master,” I started off, “I gave them the definition of god just as you told me. Now, people ask Alex all the time, ‘god of what?’ and he usually answers, ‘Second firedog to the left on the hearth’, or, ‘God of 100 Temple Avenue.’”

Carol laughed. “Typical Alex. He’s trying to rip people away from the usual mythological notions, of course. And being self-effacing as usual.”

“Only god I’ve ever heard of that doesn’t suffer from pride,” I agreed. “Alex should be the god of silliness.”  We let that thought soak in a moment, and Carol giggled. Me, I felt a poke, the sensation of gold eyes opening somewhere as Alex felt himself being talked about.

“Sometimes gods would champion things,” Dolores said, picking up her teacup and saucer again. “I was sometimes called a nymph because of my fondness for a specific place. And of course, Sorrows is burrowed into that Swiss mountain, these millennia past.” She sipped. “Somehow I can’t see Alex championing firedogs. Lolcats, perhaps.” She looked at me over the rim of her cup. She’d heard that bit earlier. Oops.

“Why aren’t there more gods now?” I had to ask, because I know that you, dear reader, want to know.

“Who says there aren’t gods now?” Dolores’s smile grew mischievous. “Besides me.”

Carol rolled her eyes.

“Alright,” Dolores sighed. “My sisters are all dead. Well, Sophia, not so much. But the other five, they were killed in the Great War, millennia ago. Which was fought over Essence.” Her humor faded away into the melancholy which had first brought her the title of Lady of Sorrows. We don’t see that a lot these days, but Dolores tells us that she was very much the Lady of Sorrows until her smith and Alex’s primary male ancestor, Gotth, showed up about five thousand years back.

Carol sat forward. She loves this academic stuff. “This gets us into Elves versus demons and all that.”

“Yes it does,” Dolores agreed. “So here’s the short version. About ten thousand years ago or so—we didn’t have the same calendar, of course, and I didn’t keep track, myself—about ten thousand years ago, Earth began to become very Essence-poor.”

She continued: “My belief is that it goes in cycles, like ice ages. It may actually coincide with them, for that matter, but I’m not that old. Anyway. When the humanoid beings, whose image I have lived in for time out of mind, came about, the world had more free Essence. The early humanoid beings, there was more than one sort of them at that time. They were three, but closely related. They could intermingle blood for the most part, so I suppose that means they were of the same species. Well, as time went on, they began to fall into three primary groups, with regards to use of Essence. The oldest group, which consolidated into the Aaldar, or Elves, gathered theirs by ‘grazing.’ They absorbed it from their environment. This meant that they needed large territories of living wilderness to exist as the free Essence became increasingly bound into the Earth itself. They absorbed the extra given off by live plants and animals.

“Now, the second and better adapted sister-race, they became carnivorous. They adapted to gather Essence by taking it from other beings. There were a lot of ways to do this, of course. Some were fatal to the living, some were not. These humanoids became the racausa, or Rakshasa.

“Some of the smaller sapient beings, who were more made of Essence than flesh, they are what we know as lesser fae of various sorts. They are not actually human at all, but they like us.”

“Entertainment value, I guess,” I said.

“True. That’s why I like humans, too,” Dolores smiled. “Anyway. The lesser fae tended to stick with the greater Fae, the Aaldar, and their close cousins. A few went the way of the Rakshasa, but not too many.

“So eventually, we have the Aaldar trying to edge the Rakshasa out of their territories as Essence became very scarce. We, the seven goddesses (and yes, there were others, but not in our territories of Europe and North Africa) had married Aaldari husbands, who were our sword-bearers.”

“That’s what my grandpa, Ariolas Maharasen, is,” Carol said for the record. “He’s the Master of Wisdom, and his grandmother and wife and goddess was Mahara Sofia.”

“Thanks,” I said. (Guys, you’ll be seeing Ariolas and Carol in Book Three.) “And Ariolas is an Elven mage.”

“Yep. More history?”

“Some, as the afternoon draws on,” Dolores said, sitting back. “And the third branch of the human tree were your ancestors. The normal humans you have today. They adapted to a very Essence-poor environment, living with little. They have short and relatively powerless lives, by comparison with their older cousins. Their society copes with this by making them more of a group being, more socially bound. They are more like the Rakshasa, which is why we get along with Meri and Gil and the others so well.”

“But the Rakshasa of Hindu mythology are mostly man-eating monsters,” Carol said, also for the record.

“And now you know why humans think that. Some do eat humans. But take Meri: his people dislike the way human personality tastes in their essence. They like a more pure sort, and prefer to get it from animals and plants, even. There are many peoples within their kind that are the same. This is why, when they found the Dragon Gates, they went to the Otherwhere, which was Essence-rich. They were able to return here easily, but they made their home away from Earth after that.

“The problems really began when the Aaldar were so pressed for sustenance that they decided to move through the Dragon Gates into the Otherwhere—and found the original territory there taken. The Great War began. When it ended, the Rakshasa moved further, via other Gates, and the Aaldar, their numbers nearly depleted, settled in the Otherwhere. They have trouble here, normally. Ariolas, he’s an exception, for reasons we shouldn’t cover now. The half-Elven, like Morgan McTiernan, Ian’s mother, and your father, Carol, they can manage here. They don’t do much magick without conjuring, however.”

And…we’ll leave this here for the time being.

Next time: Conjurors

Carol and Friend

Here Be Oddities

Should I Spoil You?

When I said I would provide stories from our World of Weird, I didn’t realize how damn hard it would be to do without giving massive spoilers. So much happened in that first year after we graduated and Alex took up Sorrows—see? Even that’s a spoiler. But maybe this is not entirely a bad thing. After all, Alex said in the preface to Sorrows’ Master that he tells his kids about how he met Kerry and how we all got together. Whoopsie…but yes, the twins will be five this year, and his daughter did ask. Whether or not she really understands the answer is something else. She will eventually.

So would it be wrong to let you know that the gang has expanded a whole bunch? We’ve got in-laws around we didn’t have before, courtesy of the Magistra that fell in love with us—the children’s mother, the beautiful and fierce Miss Carol. We eventually did meet Michael’s handler—oh, wait, that’s in the forthcoming books page, and so is Carol’s tale. So a bunch of this is already out of the bag?

Fredman, You Weasel

Fredman, you weasel. I worried for nothing, dammit.

(Oh. She says I should have read her site when we were putting it up. Pish-tosh. It’s not like *she* has read every word of the sites she’s built for clients. I still say you’re a weasel, Fredman.)

Michael’s handler, who is not “Gabriel,” but Julian, is a handful himself. He’s just as scary as Mike and Ian, but not crazy. Or not very crazy. And he’s a magick-user, too—a Witch with a capital W. That is, he’s one of a preternatural race, not a Wiccan. There are similarities…except that Witches are mostly not human, and are pretty rare.

Mike coming to us permanently that July was the first domino down in the sequence that led to us getting sucked into working for the U.S. Gommint. Trust me, this isn’t as boring as it sounds. We get callouts for all kinds of scary Weird Shit and travel all over the U.S. for it.

World of Weird

“World of Weird” is the term Brooke coined for all the distinctly non-mundane stuff under the noses of the general populous. Do people know that Club Dante, downtown, where the live bands play on weekends, is owned and operated by an actual Roman? Oh yeah. Carolanus, the vampire Master of masters in town whose club that is, he was alive toward the end of the Classical Era. I think he was born in Roman Spain in the first century AD, but moved to Italy during his lifetime. Wow, history lesson with legs and fangs. And he’s only one of the three vampire masters in town.

Our other masters are Casimir and Tamara. Casimir is Zoë’s heir. He, with Zoë and their nest, came to Palmers Rest back in the early 19th century. As did Carolanus and his nest. Tamara went to the New World with Dolores, her very old friend, so she was already there when they arrived in that howling wilderness. Those three are but a few of the preternaturals that sought refuge with the Gotth. —Thusly was the town named.

Speaking of refuge: More of the World of Weird that you probably have seen around town and recognized is the Cloutier clan. They’re quite a force in town, thanks to the Gotth’s acknowledgement of their relationship from the beginning to today, as well as social justice for persons of color slowly prevailing in the South. Back in the early years of the 20th century, Mambo Genevieve came from New Orleans to worship with Augustus, the sword-bearer of the day. They had an ongoing thing, Dolores tells me. Augustus was one of the mages of the Lineage, and he was as much Genevieve’s equal in magick as he was her friend and lover. Our ancient mambo today, Miz Thelma Cloutier, is their daughter, and her many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren form a considerable vaudun faction in town. Man, people love finding the vévés around downtown. It’s a kind of scavenger hunt for voodoo fans.

The Cloutiers are just so…around…that those of us who grew up here sort of take them for granted. Everybody has at least one in their high school class. But they and the vampires form the basis for a lot of the tourist business that we get around town.

Parties, We Haz Dem

Then there are the Holy Days. You wouldn’t believe how popular the cross-quarter days are around here—it’s like festival four times a year, for Christmas’ sake. OK, not Festival. No town our size could afford that. We have a big public do on Halloween, of course. For Halloween, there’s usually a band and a party in the town square, around the Lady Fountain. Alex gets dressed up in his best sword-bearer armor and he and his soldiers go sit out in the square and accept gifts to Sorrows as well as grant boons and otherwise entertain. Then they retreat to Gotth Hill for the party there. A lot of Wiccans and mages come around to see us at Halloween—good times.

Candlemas and Lammas are pretty mellow, in contrast, just big parties down at the Museum, the restaurant that the Cloutiers own.

Now, Lady Day is a HUGE party—of course. It’s not official, but the citizens do occupy the town square and sometimes there is an actual fair. Dolores comes out and gets her party on in style, and humans and preternaturals come from all over to get down with us. We get Maenads, even, which have to be corralled eventually. Keeps us busy, rescuing the drunk fae and humans. Oh, the stories. Most of the stories from Lady Day festivals begin with, “I was so stoned…” and generally have something X-rated in the middle. You can’t buy fun like that, I tell you.

This Week’s Reminiscence

Hmm, what’s going on in the World of Weird this week?  It’s getting close to Candlemas, and Mr. Stafford, the old guy who owns the farm next door to Gotth Hill, between us and the lake, says he’s going to breed Primo again this spring. Oh, lordy, lordy. First, we still don’t know exactly what Mr. Stafford is. He’s been around for…uh, ever since? Probably fae of some sort, or half-fae. Keeps to himself. Looks like an old guy of sixty-something. Probably a glamour, that.

As for his dog, Primo? We all grew up thinking he was a Newfoundland. But he never got old…uh…what the hell is that thing? Besides a drool machine…

Fredman says she’ll tell you that story. Hie on over to read about Fetching Slippers.

 

waterside-idyll-fi

A Nice Place to Visit…

Think of this as the musical interlude while I rack my brain for something that’s not a spoiler but will be entertaining. So I present a curious view of the lake just west of Gotth Hill…and what the heck? OK, Jimmy may have Photoshopped this… or not. I, personally, would not eat crows. Did that dragon do something bad?

And… that dragon might actually be one of my relatives. Not saying just who…

If you’d like to have this as a wallpaper, head on over to NE.Fredman’s artwork page.

Torgil-closeup

Vampires Versus the Abyss

Torgil, master vampire

Alas, poor Torgil. He met a bad end. Clicky for larger version.

One of the things that we learned even before Alex took up Sorrows is that vamps, especially the pretty civilized specimens who live in Palmers Rest, are not the creepiest or most dangerous critters out there by a long shot.

Alex will poke me (OW stop I haven’t even done it yet) if I give out too many spoilers, but if you’ve gotten into the book, you know about poor old Torgil. That’s the guy in the image up there, with the uncomfortable-looking squid-ish arms popping out of his belly. The guys told me that that’s not even all the arms that could pop out. YUCK.

The term we use “ridden” vampires. That critter there is one of nest that infests the vamp, one critter per vamp, via a freaking gateway INSIDE THE VAMPIRE. Vamp physiology I’ll leave to Ian to explain (he’s vivisected several). Then they try to establish a nest in THIS world via egg-laying into other vamps.

Abyssals Are Just Yucky

So, why the heck would Torgil even consider that? Part of the answer is spoiler (sorry)…

BUT, as Tamara the Ancient told us (she’s one of our vamps), even vampires have things that prey on them. And there are places far worse than undead. (Or not-completely-alive, as it happens.) Some of these we just call Abyssal, being as they come from a place pretty freaking alien. Abyssals such as infested Torgil and his nest apparently can grant vampires a bit of immunity to sunlight, not to mention access to a heck of a lot of Necro-essence. They’re very good at converting living tissue into not-living tissue. Vampires, in fact, theorize that they may indeed be a breed of proto-rakshasa that caught an abyssal infection that kind of stuck. Thus, they are sort of undead.

Back to the Abyssals. There are a lot of sorts out there. I can’t even pronounce the proper word for what infested Torgil’s nest. Most vamps are smarter than to even fool with them–they’re considered vamp-parasites. But, we’ve learned from some of the rakshasa we know, there is even an entire society of rakshasa out there that has gone and intentionally fused with a couple of types of these critters. Why, oh why? Well, those guys are apparently incredible heavy-weights in the magick-wielding community, and they got it from that fusion.

Daywalking: Not Quite Dead

But apparently you don’t have to do the nasty with an Abyssal to be able to eat lunch with us outside. Tamara, who is herself a daywalker, is immensely old, but hardly one of the ancestral vamps. We thought that her ability to picnic had to do with being an Ancient. Then we found out (Jimmy did, and had hysterics doing it) that she’s not exactly dead. She has a very slow heartbeat, she can eat some of the time, and generally all the normal functions are just really minimized. I won’t give out a huge spoiler, but a lot of her powers come from what she was BEFORE she was turned, and that was three millennia ago at our best guess.

Just a Teeny Spoiler, OK?

In Book Three, (http://www.nefredman.com/books/) you’ll see how we learned a LOT more about rakshasa. Point of semantics: “demons” covers a lot of beings, from non-corporeal in our worldspace, ever, to those that are actually a sister-branch of human. The latter we took up calling rakshasa. This isn’t the proper Hindu sort of legend/myth, just a name to hang our experiences on. I hope you’ll forgive me this mis-mything. In any case, if you’re a fan of kitsune, hold onto your jeans. You’re gonna love Book Three. Promise. :)