Saturday, March 31, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 13.

I look up from a hastily-scrawled side-note on the early origins of the pastoralists who once called this region home, as well as a personal note to elaborate upon that history in full at a later time, to see the imposing structure of the alehouse looming much closer.

For what it is worth, the building does seem to have several hallmarks of authenticity to it, both in terms of architecture and upkeep. Both Hraela and I are surprised to find that there are many features to the alehouse consistent with the style of building used by the more southerly and easterly kin-groups of Gertish peoples who, owing to the greater drainage of the broad expanses of relatively sandy land they inhabit, are more given to mixed agriculture than to fishing and more intensive river industries. In fact, Hraela finds herself admitting that it resembles a farmhouse she once saw at Hoehpleg.

Yes, the dense thatch roof has been garishly painted over in a variety of dyes to produce symbols and imagery of wild animals, nonexistent clan lineages, and scenes of battle. And indeed, the crossed beams above the roof's front gable, though accurate, are thickly gilded and shaped like snarling unwelcoming wolf's heads. But the walls, obviously made from wooden boards, have been textured to resemble wattle and daub from a distance, and a pole bearing some sort of potted plant on a rope could serve no other purpose but to indicate the readiness of the proprietress' latest brew. For every stretch of soulless, clueless pandering, there is a very clear indicator of care taken, and of knowledge of the genuine craft and practices. Perhaps it is that sense of compromise and wasted potential that wounds Hraela the most.

At the very least, she has relaxed her grip on her training sword without my needing to bring up that any violent reaction to the farce on her part could, conceivably, be construed as a reinforcement of certain hot-blooded stereotypes "enjoyed" by Gerts in the south.

Beyond the large alehouse structure itself, the accuracy quickly dissipates. Nearby, at another terminus of the joined roads we are rolling over, the actual travel-house and stables stands. It uses far more stone and mortar, its roof is far less steep, and its somewhat boxy nature gives it away as Denerothi in influence. It could easily pass as a chain of residences along the lowest tier of the city, or perhaps a particularly wealthy family's storehouse higher up. Past its prodigious gatehouse I can see several wheeled vehicles and their animals being loaded or unloaded, and there are sounds of carousal between caravan teams and traders almost as loud as those issuing forth from the alehouse itself. A dark beeline of liquid stains the shortest path between both buildings, where countless containers of alcohol have recently been sloshed or spilled during the frantic back-and-forth runs of the servers staffing both locations. It seems we've arrived on an unusually busy day, despite how dead and empty the roads seemed up to this point. I am remound that, for some travelers, the alehouse is as much a destination as it is a stop-off.

As we draw closer to the gate and Elrusyo leaps off of the side of our wagon in order to go about a task which he refers to opaquely as "getting a feel for the place", Ciudo attests to the diversity of patrons. One of our mixed Esgodarran guides asks for the overnight fee in a pronounced "Woodlands" accent, to which one of the men posted at the entrance responds with a hand gesture and an accent indicative of the south-central Ersuut spoken by people from Porylus to Meroth. And when the taskmaster pays for our party's stay in pieces of roughly-hewn electrum, everyone within earshot bursts out in a series of uproarious exclamations and jokes at the expense of the Ivory Tower originating from an eastern Nambarish dialect. I knew I should have petitioned for our budget to be supplied in the form of something more universally acceptable, like tin or lead.

His excitement at the linguistic confluence somewhat distracts me from my fears that we will be targeted for casual assault, robbery, or urination upon University-owned equipment before night's end.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On the Arrival of the Ancient Ersuunians.

It occurred to me as I wrote the last complete parchment of my current travelogue that I have never given a great deal of attention to those commonly alluded-to progenitors of ours, the Ersuunians. I often write as if my audience has received the same general schooling in history as I have, or at least a fraction of it, but as I try to write for a readership not confined to the upper levels of Deneroth, I realize now that I leave far too many gaps and vistas of untouched possibility in my works. This will never be completely remedied, but I will attempt to remain conscious of the issue while moving forward.

Or in this case, even farther backward.

Disregarding for a moment the Esgodarrans, the Pach-Pah lineages, the tribes of the Oron'er Mountains, half of the ethnic admixture of the Nambarish, the Gertish, the aboriginals of the Khokhantipa Mudflats, and the Delta-dwellers¹, the Ersuunians were the catalyst for the development of complex and wide-reaching civilizations in all of the known world.

According to classical depictions, they were a tall and broad-shouldered folk with dark hair and dark or sometimes blue eyes, possessed of a bronze complexion and, in the case of the men, truly impressive mustaches. With that said, I point to the much wider diversity exhibited by the groups descended from them as an indicator that this was simply one of many phenotypes found among them and their constituent peoples at the time of their arrival on the landmass.

More verifiably, the Ersuunians were well-established pastoralists who carried or carted what little material wealth of theirs which couldn't be herded. According to tradition these other articles of wealth included finely crafted iron tools and weaponry, and the materials used to create them, but it is unclear how they managed to maintain both a pioneering lifestyle and a long tradition of blacksmithing. Perhaps their carts were larger and more numerous than commonly reported, or perhaps the speed of their expansion across the continent should be measured more in centuries than in decades.

The Ersuunians were accomplished riders, and the horse is strongly associated with their culture to this day, though it is unclear whether they had such a surplus of horses that all had a mount, or only the nobility and warriors--those most likely groups to have records or accounts about them extant--had access to such resources. By "nobles", I mean the tribal chieftains who led a group in practical as well as ritual affairs, and who commonly passed their title down through a patrilineal like of succession. These chieftains would host a court and establish fortified camps for at least as long as winter lasted, often building them so that they resembled an ovoid or more rarely crescent (perhaps even horseshoe?) shape.

They originated from somewhere far to the east, beyond the lands which have since become dried and parched. Either they dwelt in those regions soon to become desert until they became less favorable, or they passed them up directly in their efforts to find or claim a new homeland for themselves. Wherever they or their own ancestors originated from beyond what is now wasteland is lost to unwritten history, for the extent of those trackless and dangerous lands is unknown either by land route or sea. Whether the Fokari lived in the area at that time is also unclear, but I speculate that if they did, the Ersuunians had one more reason to push further west, rather than contend with established tribes and their herds.

Settling first in the highlands to the east of the rivers and the corridors of steppe country north of there, the Ersuunians spread out over the region over a period of time which might be better guessed at if the University begins to develop an archaeological studies group in the next few years. I imagine that they moved with less than burning purpose, with those who arrived first establishing themselves and their families in decent grazing lands while those behind either passed beyond into the newest frontiers, or forced their erstwhile neighbors ahead of them in return.

Eventually, or "forty-by-forty generations before the cracking of the alabaster bristlecone pine's trunk and the birthing of Haraal" to be exact ³, the Ersuunians would come to the basin which now bears their name.

When they did happen upon this vast and comparatively quite verdant depression, they also encountered the Esgodarrans living there. Exactly how these two peoples related to one another at first is unclear, but at some point their relations turned hostile. It may have been a matter of land dispute, because the mounted Ersuunians were victorious over the Esgodarrans and "drove them into the hills" of the basin according to the Histories of All written by the sage Yashka, circa 1284 BR.⁴ The implication is that the Esgodarrans were present outside of the hills prior to that conflict, and the resulting clashes allowed the Ersuunians to move in and occupy the territory by themselves. This too needs better research than I am able to attempt at the time being, but were I to make the attempt, I would seek to cross-reference these histories with those surviving in Esgodarran accounts, oral or otherwise.

Whatever the catalyst or the series of events, the result was that the Ersuunian tribes now controlled vast swathes of rich new territory, which they quickly adapted to their lifestyle. It was only so long until exploration into the agriculture practiced by several of their new neighbors began, and after that it was a sad inevitability that the first chieftain arose up among them who got the wild horsehair up his backside and decided that he wanted all to refer to him as "king".

Fans of my short piece on the Pach-Pah Empire might be able to spot history repeating itself here.

¹ Why yes, that is quite a substantial list of peoples to ignore when discussing the qualifications for "original" civilizations.² Almost seems like our definition of the term is worth revisiting, doesn't it?

² Let me also preemptively admit to my bold-faced hypocrisy in not including the Longfolk of the Reossos or the Fokari of the eastern wastelands in this list. Much to my chagrin, I cannot treat all of my sources on those peoples as accurate after two to four hundred years have passed since their (arguably) shaky formation. In the latter case, sheer distance has prevented recent exploration by any daring adventurers, and in the case of the former, our modern brand of daring adventurer tends not to be very arrow-proof. Let me also acknowledge the unwritten word which must remain so even now, lest I return home to find my accommodations back at the ITU completely and wholly dismantled despite what any technicalities in the University's code of law and conduct might say otherwise about the matter. Even so far south, I can still feel the shadow of Adelbramp's black marker looming close.

³ Verse eight, line eleven of the Histories of All, Yashka the Sage, 1284 BR.

Because the passage in question is not drilled into each and every freshman's brain by orientation courses for three semesters straight like the citation just above, and because I am far away from the text at this moment, I cannot state with a great degree of accuracy where in the Histories this information may be found. However, I am reasonably confident that it is located somewhere within the first 48,000 verses of the narrative, narrowing one's search down considerably.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 12.

Out here, we are utterly exposed. The wind is dying down by itself, but it can be legendarily powerful across these flatlands. Once upon a time, this whole area was the heartland of pastoralists of varying sorts. First the Ersuunians, then the Haraalians and their kin, grazed vast herds of cattle as well as horses in between the patches of intense hill-country which dominate the imagination of many people confined to the walls of their towns and cities. Indeed, the homelands of the hillfolk are grand and extensive, but the plains which surround them are what allowed for the formation of those first nomad confederations which would eventually give rise to the urban existence which so many of us enjoy.

Even after their fences and tents were traded in for walls and buildings with stone foundations, the hooves of beasts trod over these regions in uncountable numbers along the borders of vast farming estates built to feed burgeoning polities. It was only when the Rupture occurred, and vast areas of grassland were subject to killing frosts the likes of which had not been seen before, did their numbers dwindle. And when they did fall, they plummeted, for the herds and their owners had multiplied and gorged for uninterrupted centuries. Even now, a few hundred years after that winter of winters, local belief holds that one cannot drive into the topsoil with a plowshare anywhere in the south-central plains without striking the skull of a bull.

Not that there is much driving of plowshares around here these days. Many areas are still given to dirt so loose that it blows away on windy days such as this, and deeper soil still possesses that imperceptible taint of overuse. The land that may still be good for hardier crop-raising would have to be reclaimed from the wild first, for the old towns--such as the one purportedly erected alongside Janskurf's Place--crumbled away into nothingness long ago. Deneroth, rather than investing in the risky venture, has opted to feed itself primarily through trade- even as it rulers bemoan the loss of territory and loudly champion returning to the territorial integrity of the old days. Still, the dirt road is wide enough for wagons going both ways at once, attesting to the stubborn regularity of trade from the south.

A peculiar aisle of raised ground divides the two horse paths, dotted with the same tall, tough grasses which surround us. I am remound of the details of one of the accounts of the palace of Haraal, as penned by one of the personal scribe-assistants of Laizij himself. Supposedly for a whole mile leading up to the entrance to the ill-fated stronghold, two roads positioned closely together like this were divided by a pair of tapestries of immense length and height. Woven upon each face was all of the accomplishments of the godlike emperor, oriented so that they could be read while approaching from one road and while leaving along the other. Every day they were being dragged forward or back as new chapters of his greatness were added, lengthening the tapestries while ensuring that they remained perfect, if flipped mirrors of one another.¹

Up ahead, at the highest point on a gentle slope, we can now see the dark timbers of Janskurf's Place. It rises up out of the least inviting-looking patch of heath in the entire land, perhaps a result of one clever bit of business acumen- the worse the environment looks around it, the more inviting and safe the old tavern seems by comparison. The two halves of the road merge together before it and pinch inward as they lead toward it and the structures nearby. The roadside sign we are nearing now is even larger than I had pictured, standing easily twice as high as I do. Elrusyo lightly elbows me and grins as we come close enough for Hraela to recognize that the sensationalist Denerothi Ersuut engravings upon the sign are not even accompanied by anything in a known Gertish dialect.

She is not amused.

¹ I am also remound of one infamous passage described in The Attestations of Itraszes, in which one of the tapestries miraculously transformed to reveal the future of the empire on the night of Haraal's disappearance, describing in grizzly detail all of the plagues, catastrophes, and evils to be visited upon its peoples. The Attestations only surfaced about a century after the ruler departed from his realm, but it was accepted as true enough to be used as an argument for the deification and veneration of Haraal. While I am no expert on topography, I can somewhat confidently state that these plains have not yet been swallowed up by an ever-expanding lake of black fire, causing me to cast some of my own humble skepticism upon the prophesies.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ko-Fi CuPost #1.

"How about a peek into ITU's hierarchy and faculty?"

Why is it that the farther away from the University I travel, the closer I seem to be linked to it?

Very well. I will do my best to illuminate the nature of my lodgings.

The exact hierarchy and composition of the echelons of the Ivory Tower University are an impenetrably convoluted mystery, even (and sometimes especially) to its own members and higher-ups. At the time of the school's consecration during the life of Grand Scholar Laizij, the bureaucracy was already a broad and robust machine with many lateral offices divided between a considerable number of tiers of authority. In concept it mirrored the specialized and staggered structure of the whole of the city of Deneroth, embodying the perfect form and function of Laizij's greatest creation.

In practice, it introduced bloat and chaos into the mix forevermore.

I use "chaos" in its literal, mythological sense of undifferentiated formlessness, rather than in its sense of randomness, anarchy, and/or man-made lawlessness. The red tape and regulations in place, however arbitrary they may have been in origin under Laizij, are dutifully followed by all members of staff and faculty centuries later, especially in regards to the procedure used to determine where exactly one falls in the hierarchy relative to another individual. You might ask "why would one's position in the hierarchy be in question at any given point?" And that would be a perfectly valid question for which you would be fired, demoted even lower (and then tasked with finding your new ranking), or banished to the libraries in exile on "probation".

You would not be removed before you got the full answer, however. The faculty is quite proud of it.

Here at the University, every position held has a numerical value attached to it. These numbers range from 76 at the lowest, to 0 at the highest. You read that correctly- seniority increases as the number decreases, with various thresholds limiting or enabling an individual's privileges. The first guidelines for the scale were put in place by Laizij himself, and while the number range has remained unchanged in the centuries since, the means of navigating it have ballooned into a textbook's worth of formulae and rules for irregularities and exceptions. Because raw number overrides position within the spine, it is very possible for someone of quite low standing to achieve a very high rank through a combination of judicious school politicking, dumb luck, and bureaucratic blunder.

For example, a freshman student with zero involvement in any clubs or extracurricular activities possesses a 76, which entitles them to room and board, lavatory access, and basic utility and facility usage across campus within the weekly minimum curfew hours. A 5th-year senior who is head of their dormitory's division of the sporting club however, might have a number closer to 52. This would potentially place them above the ranking of their own nontenured professors starting at 55, assuming the student was still enrolled in entry-level classes of course. But if one such professor possessed the title of Committee Head, which is worth a score minimum of 40, then those scores would be averaged together to a respectable 47.5, which would enable them to shut down just about any student attempting to call a referendum on their course materials.

There are ten tiers of importance making up the "spine" of the University, if you will. Various departments confined to each hence radiate outward like "ribs". The topmost rank is made up of the deans of each supra-department, the composition of which is a constantly changing thing, as well as the head senior administrator. These individuals, alongside the biggest contributors to the funding of the University (including at least one representative of the family of the Stewards of Deneroth) make up a Board of the Directorate which modifies all member's rankings to a flat 0, or alters their average, depending on whether or not the Board has been in session in the past eleven days. The Directorate is the single highest decision-making body in the University, and each member enjoys approximately the same weight of importance, involvement, and irritability. Each semester, a vote is conducted by the Directorate to determine who besides the investors has earned the floating title of Inheritor of the Grand Scholar, which among other things possesses a rank of -1. Therefore, the highest seniority number achievable is -0.5 for a period of about sixteen weeks.

The next three tiers are the proper bureaucrats and administrators of the University, who oversee the valuing of titles and positions, the tenuring of professors according to those values, the allocation of funds not decided upon by the Directorate, the regulation of all clubs and committees and their rules, and other matters. Tier three is the level to which my infamous colleague Senior Editor Adelbramp belongs, as both the Provost of the Board for Historical Ordination and Associate Vice-Dean of Affairs for ITU Publishing. He currently sits at a lofty 12, but the latest rumor is that the venerable Chairman Lomeus Bielo of the Treasury is contemplating retirement¹, and acquiring the right position or title left behind in that vacuum would allow Adelbramp to ascend to 8, the threshold for becoming an audience member to the Directorate's meetings.

The next four tiers include the actual professors, instructors, teachers, and graduate students in the University's employ. This vast army of educators is at times even more severe and cutthroat than the realm of bureaucrats, which goes a way toward explaining how hidebound some individuals within these tiers may become- their very livelihood often depends on whether or not the theories they built their careers on remain unchallenged or not for the rest of the year. I am often derisive and hard on many of these men and women (and the occasional squirrel in a waistcoat), but I do not envy the razorwire on which they must balance while also battling for the respect of their walleyed students. Diverse fields dealing with every conceivable consideration or recreation of the sciences, as well as the study of humanity and its many arts, can be found espoused within the classrooms of this at times vexing, other times delightful mess of scholars.

The last tier is composed of the thousands-strong student body itself, but as many introspective pieces produced by students and alumni alike will suggest, a whole separate and intricate web of hierarchies and social dealings is imbricated within, hidden just beneath the surface. At the risk of being over-reductive, I will observe that most of these hierarchies derive from some permutation of clique, academic performance, gang club membership, and family status/background. The seemingly placid, anemic masses of nebbish university-goers is far more vigorous than one might expect.

"But Mr. Litte," you might ask once more, wonder and amazement still etched upon your face, "where is the tenth tier? You've only described nine of them."

Well, my observant reader, you are correct.

Officially there are ten tiers, but the proper tenth receives something of a False City treatment in day-to-day life. The lowest tier is occupied by any and all members of staff deemed to be menial in nature. This includes tenders to the campus grounds, physical laborers, janitorial and/or custodial staff (with the exception of the keepers of the Ivory Tower itself, who are in fact Tier Two administrators), and those who are employed from outside of the University proper work to in or manage various supply offices and commissaries, an exception to the general rule that "outsiders" are not permitted within the gates outside of designated hours. The lower level of Gatekeepers who perform the opening and closing rituals each day while being barred from University entry also occupy this tier, as do stationary adjuncts such as myself.²

All of this is a simplification of a system which must be articulated in several volumes rather than on a few sheets of parchment, of course. One or two nuggets of lore on the subject may have escaped my memory, but I hope I have still made an appreciable contribution to a topic which I have less than absolute fascination for.

¹ It was recently discovered that for the last decade, Bielo had been accidentally sending redeemable treasury checks to University business partners in triplicate, rather than sending records of the transaction down to the Office of Finances. Thus his "retirement" may in reality be mandated. Then again, someone probably should have started to ask questions four years before that, when he turned 89 years of age and began to become confused as to whether he worked at the ITU, or its cousin campus twice removed at Porylus Mons.

² Yes, this is why I am able to maintain the same approximate role and status within the campus despite being dematriculated and then unofficially expelled from the Humanoid Ecology program eight years ago. No, I will not go into this in any greater detail than I absolutely must.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 11.

Sarq shakily accepted Elrusyo's hand, and the two shook vigorously for several seconds as the hedge-magician drew his self-injured arm back in under his cloak. He then shook hands with Hraela and Ciudo, and I was forced to oblige as well, and in the subsequent moments of celebration in which the rest of the caravan's nerves became somewhat more settled, another shot of drink went around.

Now, after sputtering fire for a second time this day, I am attempting to balance out the alcohol with water from a skin which simply insists upon dripping dangerously close to the fresh ink on my parchments. Seeing that there simply will be no stopping me, as I have come to accept in return with him, Elrusyo asks that I at least scribble something of value while I do. At the conclusion of the first day of this little travelogue, which we are already nearing, he states that he has a very important bit of history to initiate each of us into. Each of us save for Hraela, he makes a note of. She would already be very familiar with this, considering her family roots. This suggestion leaves her looking somewhat bemused. Ciudo and Sarq quietly worry that this is another child-burning celebration.

Elrusyo laughs, but does not say no.

I know what he has in mind, however. I had hoped that it would only be a brief stop for our caravan, but it is apparent that our attendants are itching to overnight at the very same place. I speak of course of the southernmost of all "authentic-styled" Gertish¹ alehouses in the domain claimed by the city-state of Deneroth; Janskurf's Severed Toe, also known as Janskurf's Place.

Janskurf, according to the legend emblazoned on a large wood-and-metal plaque displayed prominently upon the alehouse's roadside sign as well as one of the walls of its common room, was a Gertish hero from the lifetime of Haraal himself. He led a clan of Gertish tribesmen down from the northern coasts to fight for the emperor, and was involved in a famous battle with the classic villains and scapegoats of the empire, an army of Esgodarrans. This teeming horde of hill-people, however, was reportedly unique in that it was aided by a contingent of "treasonous mountain-slingers" commonly identified as either Pach-Pah soldiers from a splinter faction allied with the locals to their north, or as a mercenary group composed largely of individuals of mixed ethnic background.²

As the story goes, Janskurf led his people to a quick and decisive victory over his opponents, but when they feigned surrender, he was struck across the temple by a sling bullet and then chopped upon the foot while he was stunned. They still won the battle, but Janskurf lost his big toe. Hobbled for the rest of his life, Janskurf and some of his people settled the site of their victory and built a small town. When Janskurf died at the ripe old age of over two hundred years, the resentful Esgodarrans naturally invaded once more and tried to raze the town to the ground, but much to their horror his ghost rose up to defend the alehouse under which he had been buried. And so it still stands to this day.

Of course, there is no great battle between Esgodarrans and Gertish tribesmen on the southern border of what would become Deneroth in any historical record but what the establishment claims. Likewise, it is doubtful that a prominent man named Janskurf ever lived among the Gerts who allied with the Haraalians, or elsewhere for that matter, considering the fact that it is by all accounts a gibberish name only vaguely identifiable as "Gertish-enough" by an outsider with an eye for stereotypes. And as a matter of fact, the "traditional" beer and ale culture of the Gertish people is almost wholly a result of centuries of interactions with their southern neighbors- an emphatic consensus by indigenous groups and travelers to the low riverlands alike is that the "original" Gertish drink of choice is a spirit distilled from a wide variety of vegetation known to their homes. If the blindingly blonde wigs worn by many of the attendants of that establishment are any indication, the locals might not even care about the inaccuracies, if they do know.

Though I wish there were a gentler way of saying it, the Ivory Tower University's recent close examination of the alehouse and its history was completely accurate in saying that Janskurf's Severed Toe is little more than a culture-appropriating tourist trap geared to play off of the expectations and ignorances of traveling city-dwellers and University students alike.

I can see the land flattening out up ahead as we enter the broad section of heath in which the alehouse and attached caravansary are located. I should find a way to approach the subject with Hraela tactfully while there is still time, lest someone or something end up with a longsword driven through it this evening.

¹ Note that I have changed over from "Gertisch" to "Gertish" and will attempt to remain that way for the remainder of my journey. Confined to the University as I so often am, it is difficult to resist the hypercorrective pull of the -isch ending, which was made standard in all academic material some five generations ago by the short-lived yet deeply impactful Committee for Agreeable Exonyms. They hold no power over me here however, and so I shall endeavor to use the more common rendering of the adjective, in keeping with my hopes of making this work more approachable to people living beyond the vaunted walls of my home city.

² As will become apparent as we near this expedition's destination, our peoples are more than capable of intermingling, and many marriages or other productive pairings of the sort have occurred in the border regions between mountain and lowland over the centuries. Though mildly stigmatized in the north, these folk face relatively little discrimination from their southerly parentage. In particular, the descendants of former Pach-Pah noble families were quick to infuse their family lines with as much "new blood" as possible once the practice of enforced intra-familial marriage came crashing to an end. The safe assumption that someone two to three feet taller than oneself and born hundreds of miles away was probably not a relative became an important guideline for courtship in those lineages of diminishing status following the revolution(s).

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ko-fi Update: Fuel my creativity in more ways than one!

Hello once again, dear Burrowers. Sorry for the slow month. The leaping year and the daylight spending always come as a surprise to me, and leave little goblin a little dazzled for a while.

And, while I've been delighting in the weirdness which a certain hedge-mage has brought to the surgical table of my recent and most long-running series of posts, I am currently trying to work out where exactly the travelogue will be heading... other than Southward and/or Backward, of course.

I do have an end point in mind, as well as several dots along the trail in-between, but it's the in between in-betweens that are challenging me at the moment.

I come to you with good tidings, though.

Never again will I want for writing topics, so long as you lot remain interested!

A few weeks ago I made a post referring to my recently opened Ko-fi page, and since opening it I've had the pleasure of getting two cups for virtually nothing in return. It felt pretty sweet at the time, and I am still very appreciative. But I've come to realize that I want to feel like I'm earning something when one of you is nice enough to donate. And that is why from now on, any and all donations will come with near-instantaneous* rewards for the donor and all other readers!

I call it CuPosting. Yes, it's a terrible name. And I love it.

1 Cup = 1 Post. Simply include in your private message accompanying a donation one writing prompt of a few sentences or less. It can be related to the Ivory Tower University Setting, or anything fantasy-orient, or even fiction in general, so long as my writing in response to it would not flag my blog as adult-oriented... because I can go on and on about the hideous experiments of Mersind & Hital all I want, but a single descriptive instance of consensual boinking would be a no-no.

You can also mention your name or one of your aliases in the prompt message, and I'll be happy to give you or content of your own a shout-out in the associated post.

As stated, I do have general plans for my own posts and will be continuing with those, so have no fear about my content suddenly being overtaken by the will of the masses. I have loads of free time this time of year, anyway.

At least until the squirrels start to come back out in great enough numbers and ferocity...

* Instantaneous, up to my capacity to write in a timely fashion, given how hectic life can be. As well as assuming I don't all of a sudden receive a massive influx of donations and requests. Of course if that did happen, I would be so incredibly delighted that rest assured, I would put aside a big chunk of time to get around to each and every prompt.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 10.

Sarq seems nearly to faint for a moment, though likely more from disbelief at what Elrusyo has done, than from actual distress at the sight of blood. He shakes off his nonplussed shackles after a few moments in a scramble of quick movement which too, in a few moments, he fights against. Something approaching a focused calm comes over him, and a not-quite-authoritative voice comes from his mouth as he requests this, that, or the other thing of Ciudo and Hraela- his bewildered, brand new surgical assistants, it would seem.

They both shift closer to the flanks of their beleaguered colleague and offer what assistance they can- an apparently permissible act in Elrusyo's eyes, and an effective utilization of the resources at hand. Ciudo looks the most morose now, being unused to such carnage, but he tries to keep a steady hand as he fishes around for the proper tools and implements packed away in Sarq's small cases. Hraela seems more annoyed that they must now dote on this disagreeable man than bothered at the blood. Before long she subsumes her distaste underneath classic Gertisch stoicism- which is to say, she offers her silent, withering glare to everyone-and-thing, and not only their patient. She does however look favorably upon the bloody blade belonging to Elrusyo which sits nearby. Whether because of its craftsmanship, or the way he handled it, I cannot say.

Elrusyo himself seems to demonstrate the greatest self-control and composure of anyone in this cart, both myself and even the draft horse included. His fingers occasionally twitch and spasm as if from damaged and misfiring musculature, but from the elbow up he remains absolutely cool and composed. He even continues to offer casual advice and commentary to Sarq, though he keeps returning to the passage of time as imperative. The dark blood running from his self-inflicted wound is now forming a small puddle in between our huddled bodies.

"Careful with that tourniquet now, boy. Do you want me to permanently lose the use of my fingers?"

"It would be admirable of your foresight to get someone looking for an artery clamp or two."

"While it is permissible in this short-term scenario, I loathe to imagine what corruption that thing could cause without proper cleaning."

"Excuse me, nurse, could I please get a warm, damp towel on the brow? I am feeling a little faint and clammy... Oh come now, you feisty Gert. I was not singling you out for your womanhood! In fact, I was referring to your mute little linguist and trying to get him to speak up finally."

"Gah, careful with that! Apply the antiseptic, don't drown me in it! And don't you hold out on me, either. A patient--and their doctor--benefit far more from sharing a shot or two than any medical institution will admit. Come to think of it, just give everyone here a round. Especially if it will shut Robber's damned quill up."

The initial time limit is beaten, with the worst of the bleeding stopping before the pool of blood becomes frighteningly large. Still, the reek of iron is strong enough for people up and down the line to turn and wonder what is happening, and Elrusyo himself seems pale, weakened, and even a little quiet. Esgodarran brandy burns my throat and stomach, but enough that I am able to pretend it is fortifying me against the cold wind which still dips down through the high, hilly valleys to whip across our caravan.

But the real work of knitting everything else together begins now, and is far more grueling. It seems to be that Sarq has forgotten exactly what was requested of him, but Elrusyo does not seem inclined to stop him if he is indeed on a roll. Muscle, sinew, and skin will have to come together of its own accord, if it will at all, but steps can still be taken to foster it.

So involved is he, that he doesn't even notice the way his assistants shift away down the bench once more.

Or the fact that the other arm belonging to the hedge magician is now raised, hand extended to receive and shake the medic's. Elrusyo smiles the sort of smile normally reserved for professional False City grifters.