Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Stranger Comes -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, though really ought to go with this post.]
[Content note: child abuse]

One day a man came from the south, upon a great horse, who was unlike any man Shasta had seen before. His turban was of clean silk and over it he wore a helmet with a single spike at the center. He wore a shirt of chain mail, a round shield studded with brass hung from his back, a curving scimitar hung at his side, and a lance was in his right hand, while he held the reins with his left.

This was the first time Shasta had seen any instruments of war, and he didn't truly understand what he was seeing. To him the brass studded shield was no different than silver inlaid stirrups: they made the man seem other worldly, strange, and impressive.

His beard was strange to Shasta as well, for it was crimson.

The horse Shasta barely took note of. It was dappled with a flowing mane and tail.

Shasta didn't even notice the man's armlet, but Arsheesh knew by the design inlaid in its gold that this man was a Tarkaan. So great a lord had not visited this scrap of coast in a generation, however any properly educated Calormene subject knew how to respond.

Arsheesh dropped to his knees and bowed so low his beard touched the soil, then hastily gestured to Shasta to kneel as well.

"I require lodging for the night," the man said, and Arsheesh was quick to agree to provide it. To Shasta this was nothing new, he would sleep with the donkey again. The same as he did when a man from the village paid a visit. Arsheesh knew that this was very strange. A Tarkaan almost never traveled alone, had no reason to be in this place, and if he needed lodging would prefer the inn at the village to the south, not the isolated home of some fisherman.

Arsheesh, though, also knew not to ask questions. He rushed into the house to make it presentable, pausing only to order Shasta to care for the horse and its saddle and say, "Please allow this humble servant a moment to tidy my inadequate dwelling."

"Do you know anything of lances, boy?" the man asked Shasta. Shasta simply shook his head.

"The shiny end doesn't touch the ground," the man said, "and don't touch it yourself unless you like bleeding." In truth the lance was not nearly that sharp, made for thrusting instead of slashing, but the man thought that Shasta would be more careful if he believed the metal to be more dangerous than it was.

Indeed, when Shasta took the lance he treated the metal tip as though it would bite him if touched, and carefully moved the weapon into the stable.

When Shasta returned the man had dismounted. He approached Shasta with the horse's reins in his hand, then stopped. He was looking at something on Shasta's neck, or perhaps his shoulder. Shasta was about to look at his shoulder to see if he could understand what the stranger was looking at, when he realized what must have caught the stranger's eyes.

It had been three days ago, and Shasta had done something wrong with cooking dinner. He didn't really know what, but he always seemed to find some way to mess things up. His shame would still be written on his body in purple or brown. He was never good enough for Arsheesh, and now here was this man, someone Arsheesh obviously looked up to, looking at where Arsheesh had made Shasta's failure visible.

Shasta tried to turn to hide the sign of his shame, but the man reached out his free toward Shasta to turn him back. Shasta flinched. He couldn't help it. He hadn't meant to. It just happened. The man's hand had stopped at the flinch, frozen in mid air.

The man pulled his hand back and offered Shasta the horse's reins. "He's well trained," the man said. "He'll give you no trouble."

When Shasta took the horse to the stable, the man walked to join Arsheesh inside the house.

-

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What Shasta Believed -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, though really ought to go with this post.]
[Content note: child abuse]

Shasta believed himself the son of a fisherman.  He believed that sons worked hard for their fathers without reward or praise, never complained, always obeyed, accepted punishment without protest, and loved their fathers without condition.  He believed he was a bad and broken person because he could not love the fisherman, Arsheesh, no matter how hard he tried.  He believed he was worthless because Arsheesh often found fault with him, and beat him frequently.

He believed that he would only ever have one friend, the donkey that pulled Arsheesh's cart, laden with fish, south to the nearest village most afternoons.  He believed there was nothing strange about a fisherman never taking his son to sea or teaching him to fish.  He believed it unremarkable that in all his life he had never heard a word uttered about his mother.

He believed that he had been born in Arsheesh's house and that he would die there, having never gone father from the house than the mile or so away that the southern village lay.  He had only been to the village once or twice, and it made him believe the world a squalid place, for all that he saw there were men in clothes as plain, ragged, and dirty as Arsheesh's own.

Or, at least, he believed that most of the world was squalid or boring.  To the east was the ocean, which meant nothing to him as he was never allowed on Arsheesh's boat.  To the the south lay a village that simply had more men like Arsheesh, to the west was rocky land that was mostly barren, except for the occasional small plant or sprout of grass beside the trickling creek.

But to the north . . . to the north there lay mystery.

The western waste transitioned to grassy land to the north, it was here that Shasta took the donkey for grazing, but he was never allowed to go too far north.  The land gradually rose into a hill, blocking any hint of what lay beyond.

Arsheesh never answered Shasta's questions of what lay to the north, which only made him more curious.  He had been told not to ask, he had been beaten, he had been given platitudes so twisted and incoherent even Shasta knew that Arsheesh wasn't really trying.

The one Shasta remembered best was, "Oh my son, do not allow yourself to be distracted by idle questions.  For, as one of the poets has said, 'Application to business is the root of prosperity, but those who ask questions that do not concern them are steering the ship of folly towards the rock of indulgence.'"  Shasta didn't even know what all of the words meant, but he knew that the opposite of a root was not the steering of a ship.  A branch, perhaps, but not steering.

Shasta believed that Arsheesh was hiding something from him.  He knew that something lay to the north, for once, and one time alone, a traveler had come over the hill.  Seeking shelter for the night, he stayed at Arsheesh's house.  As was always the case when another man stayed at the house, Shasta slept that night with his friend the donkey, but before he did he listened by the doorway to hear what the traveler from the north might say.

The traveler had told stories of people who lived in gleaming palaces who never worked, sat on soft cushions, ate foods that defied belief, commanded armies, fought wars, had thousands of slaves to do all of their work for them, and so much more.

Shasta didn't believe any of these things were real, but he wondered what must lie north of the hill to allow the traveler to even imagine such things.

So it was that when Shasta worked alone during the day, when his indoor work was done, when he had run out of things to say to the donkey, finished with his inside tasks, and set himself to the endless task of repairing and cleaning Arsheesh's nets, that Shasta looked to the north and imagined what great secret might lay over the hill.  He believed that Arsheesh was keeping some great secret from him.

As with so much Shasta believed, he was wrong.  Arsheesh neither knew nor cared what lay over the hill.  The road led south, not north.  The best waters for fishing were almost due east, why he had chosen to live at the creek instead of with others.  He'd never had cause to go north of the hill, and he had no interest in what might lay there.  He did, however, have an interest in keeping Shasta from wandering too far, so when Shasta asked he gave dull non-answers if his mood were pleasant, and beatings when it was not.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Setting the Stage for the Susan Era story -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's, but it would more at home in the now-closed comments to this post.]

First you must understand that this was a unique time in the history of the lands.

Yes, it was during the Golden Age when Peter was High King, but that doesn't bring understanding. To understand you must realize that the Golden Age took time to establish and was fragile from beginning to end.

When the White Witch's regime collapsed so too did the combination of magic and border guards that had kept humans out of Narnia while sealing Animals for a century. The beginning of High Queen Susan's reign was a time of chaos. Aslan had left with the victory that signaled the changing of power from Jadis to four children who knew little of Narnia and less of ruling.

In those early days many humans migrated back into Narnia, the land of their ancestors, a rare few were even old enough to call it the land of their birth. Many Animals left, as to them Narnia had been nothing but memories of pain and cold.

Those who traded in captured Narnian livestock, long reputed to be the best in all realms, were no longer limited to the handful who escaped, or were expelled by the queen --already bound--
along with an ice shipment. They took many Animals who had immigrated into Archenland, and for the first time were able to journey into Narnia itself to capture their living wares.

Of course such practices were forbidden in Archenland, but Calormen had always been all the market the Animal traders had ever needed. Exotic Narnian Animals were highly sought after in Calormen, and the prices they would fetch made the need to transport them through Archenland but a pittance.

Once a satellite state of Narnia, Archenland had spent one hundred years in fear that without their patron, isolationist under Jadis, Calormen would simply take them over. Ignoring the trade in Animals, and not taxing the trade in ice, had been a way to keep Calormen content enough to not bother conquering them. That was how they justified it.

When Narnia reopened the Animal trade was firmly entrenched, had well established routes, and ensured a steady flow of Animals from Narnia to Calormen. By boat and over desert many were delivered into bondage. Those Animals who survived in Calormen had learned quickly to be silent, for fear they be executed as abominations born of unnatural magic.

In these times many Horses and Donkeys were taken, and they would come to ally themselves with many girls, boys, other youngsters, and adults as well, to escape Calormen.

It was only once the Kings and Queens of Narnia could again assert their power, and promise protection to Archenland, that the trade began to fail as old laws were once again enforced.

The kings and queens of Narnia made great efforts to protect their lands by forging alliances with neighboring countries, and Archenland once again became Narnia's closest ally. Sometimes, however, diplomacy failed.

When High King Peter was forced to take Narnia's entire army to the north, High Queen Susan and Low King Edmund took unprecedented measures to ensure peace in the south. They traveled with the Crown Prince of Archenland in their company, and indulged Calormen by immediately accepting an invitation to visit its capital that normally would have required months of diplomatic and logistical coordination.

It was a calculated risk, but for a century Calormen had demonstrated, via its stance toward Archenland, that it was content to allow the continued existence of kingdoms that bowed to its whims.

Only Low Queen Lucy remained to actually administer the country of Narnia, for High King Peter was involved in a war to prevent Narnia from being taken by the north, and High Queen Susan and Low King Edmund were engaged in diplomacy to prevent Narnia from being taken by the south.

It was the most volatile moment in Narnia's Golden Age, the memory of Aslan was fading, a war raged, and the vast empire of Calormen loomed like a cornice ready to bring devastation upon everything in its path if perturbed.

Into the center of this stumbled a party that included not just a boy or girl with a Mare, Stallion, or Donkey, but a Mare with a girl, a Stallion with a boy, and a donkey in tow.

It is true that there was no human child who was neither boy nor girl, nor was there a talking Donkey, but most of the characters from most of the stories could be mapped onto one of the five travelers. This alone might have made it into the story the others were subsumed into, but that it was a story from Narnia's Golden Age in which the fate of not just Archenland, but also Narnia, hung in the balance made the story irresistible.

There had been many Brees before, Bree was a common enough name for a mount, and there had been girls called "aravissa" rather than their actual names, but here there was a Bree, a girl actually named Aravis (after one of the girls from an earlier story) the first Shasta and the first Hwin to appear in such an adventure, and the nameless donkey that somehow seemed to stand for all donkeys and Donkeys alike.

When Bree the Liar combined many existing tales into his own, largely fictitious, adventure some years later, it was this story that he stole the most from.


It was at this time that our story began. While it would affect the fates of Narnia, Calomen, and Archenland between, it started by a stream that was little more than a trickle far to the south of any place or person who might be expected to affect the course of any of those three nations.

For it was in this place that a boy named Shasta would learn that everything he had believed was a lie. Normally such a thing would mean little to anyone but the boy, but that was the pebble that started the rockslide.

The Matter of Aravis -- Index

The idea is that the reason for inconsistencies and non-sequiturs in the source text is that many different stories were combined (bashed together) into the existing The Horse and His Boy narrative because of sexism and racism.

Also because Archenland has a truly horrible history when it comes to their treatment of royal twins, and they'd rather pretend it only happened once, and any additional stories are just corruptions of the one, AND ONLY ONE, time the twin thing happened (which happens to be one of the rare times they're not to blame.)

In theory all of my HHB fic can be adapted into this, and I definitely plan to, for instance, include all three versions of "the comportment of a slave" by modifying them so they're conversations between different people at different points in history that represent the changing nature of slavery in Calormen.

At the moment, though, all I've really written post deciding to go through with the idea is the core story that mostly follows along with the book.

-

Things written about the conception of the idea well before I decided to actually run with it.

Susan Era story:

Monday, May 22, 2017

When Shasta asked Corin where Susan was -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

The march was slow as the whole endeavor would be pointless if the cavalry arrived, exhausted, ahead of the, likewise exhausted, infantry, and so Shasta found himself with a lot of time to think about what he'd volunteered for. It had seemed to make sense at the time. Everything, even Aravis' suffering at the claws of a lion they'd foolishly mistaken for Aslan, would be for nothing if Anvard fell.

Sure, they'd started off looking for nothing more than freedom, but they'd become caught up in this larger flow of history and they'd all chosen to deliver Aravis' message to Anvard and warn Queen Susan of the looming danger even though they'd have been safer waiting till the battle was decided and crossing only then.

The message and warning were delivered, but neither would matter much if Anvard fell and the Tisroc were convinced to send more troops to solidify the conflict.

It had seemed to make sense to do everything in his power, including joining this hastily thrown together army, to make sure Anvard survived the assault and the Calmorene troops never had unfettered access to the passage to Narnia and Queen Susan.

As the horse --a magnificent creature that treated him well, but not someone he could possibly talk to; even Hwin would only be able to manage the most basic communication with an ordinary horse-- drew him closer and closer to the inevitable death and bloodshed, he was beginning to doubt the wisdom of volunteering.

Maybe it would have been better to leave the fighting to the other volunteers, like the Badgers and Weasels who had as much intelligence as any person paired with the fighting instincts of their wordless brethren.

Shasta was in need of some kind of reassurance or comfort, and his mind returned to Queen Susan. Not as the person they had to warn about Rabadash's assault, but as the woman who had been kind to him in Tashbaan. It wasn't his place to call on the High Queen of Narnia to quell his fears, but maybe she would anyway.

"Where is Queen Susan?" Shasta asked Corin.

Shasta was confused at the reaction his question provoked. A flury of emotions, none of them good, seemed to contort Corin's face. Just for a moment though. Then, composed, he said, "At Cair Paravel."

Why would she have stayed there? She had as much to lose as anyone. Unless--

"She’s not like Lucy, you know," Corin continued, and didn't give Shasta time to say that he didn't know before adding, "who’s as good as a man, or at any rate as good as a boy."

That made no sense. If anyone preparing for battle were given a choice between Shasta, a boy, and Aravis, a girl, they'd chose Aravis. They'd be right to. Shasta would chose Aravis over himself. Obviously girls could be better than boys, so too could they be worse. It depended on the girl and the boy in question.

Shasta had lived most of his life as a common slave with no education. One who hadn't even realized he was a slave until the end. If he could understand this, how could Corin --prince and heir to an entire well off kingdom-- not?

"Queen Susan is more like an ordinary grown-up lady," Corin said as if it meant something.
There was something harsh in his voice, but Shasta couldn't place it. "She doesn’t ride to the wars," after a pause Corin's manner became more pleasant and he said, "though she is an excellent archer.”

The only thing Shasta had learned from that was that Queen Susan was an excellent archer. Still, Shasta thought he'd figured out the answer on his own. Queen Susan was Rabadash's target. If she showed her face on the battlefield she'd be in much greater danger than anyone else. It made sense for her to avoid the battle.

*

* *
*


Shasta is actually wrong here. His reasoning is fine, but he reaches the wrong conclusion none the less. He's missing out on some important facts, you see.

Susan stayed because her state of mind wasn't fit for fighting after Corin's violent outburst toward her (because she turned down Corin's offer of marriage), which was what Ana suggested here and what I ran with on the "why Susan stayed and Corin went" fic.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Birds before Battle -- The Matter of Aravis

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.  As a reminder from last time, Susan stayed at the castle, Shasta was allowed to join without subterfuge, and Corin was allowed to ride with the army when he might otherwise not have been (since he's theoretically under the protection of Narnia) because he needed to be separated from Susan.]

"What draws your eyes, Shasta?" the horned Rabbit to his right asked.

"All the birds."

"They've been told there is a battle coming," the Rabbit said. "Eagles, Hawks and Vultures can't quite converse with their wordless brethren, but they can get the gist across. It's considered polite to let the wordless, those which resemble you, know about potential feasts."

"He means the dead people and horses," Corin said with a strange and disturbing glee.

"Will they feed on . . . us?" Shasta asked.

"If we die," Corin said.

"Only the wordless would," the Rabbit said. "It's generally considered very rude to dine upon one whom, in life, you could have conversed with."

"But . . ." Shasta was having difficulty figuring out how to communicate this. He knew that some animals ate their own kind, but he didn't wish to sound like he was saying those like this Rabbit did. Finally he settled on, "But wordless eat wordless."

"Their ways are their own," the Rabbit said, "and quite unlike our own."

~ - ~

If Al-mi'raj were a species rather than an individual, the horned rabbit would be one of them.  WanderingUndine thought of a jackalope and I can definitely see where that's coming from.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Going Forward

Ok, so, I need money to pay down debts, that hasn't changed.  What if I didn't?  Where would I go from here if I had money and it weren't spoken for, as it were?

I cannot stress enough how much I need new shoes.  Even if the soles don't come off entirely the current shoes are like begging to sprain an ankle before I've even managed to fully recover from the break.  Most of the seams and other connections are busted, the soles are worn straight through at their centers, the whole thing is a mess.

What with changing seasons and so forth the shoes I was looking at are no longer available online, but these look like they'd work.  Way out of my price range, but this is a "what if" post.  I also need inserts because my feet are weird.  As in I was once having ski-boots fitted and they called everyone in the foot section over to look at my weird feet.  It's nothing terribly debilitating, certainly not deformed, but I do need inserts and not the cheap kind.  They run about $50.

Once damage control on my feet is over we get to more interesting stuff.

I seem to have reconnected to my creativity so hopefully that will mean more fiction, original and derivative in the future.  I cannot stress how much I would like that.

I want to return to the deconstructions (I've got three stalled right now) and I'm thinking of just starting them over from the beginning.  In some cases this will mean minor revisions, in others it will mean total rewrites.

I've never talked much about fabrication here, but it's something that I've done in the past and I want to get back into.  Mostly before I've made puzzles of the style pioneered by Erno Rubik and his cube.  (The technical term for the category is "Twisty Puzzle(s)".)  Definitely have a lot on that front that I've been waiting years, and in some cases over a decade, to do.  But there are also other creation things I'd like to branch out to.  The problem: It's even more expensive than the damned shoes.

Alumilite is what I know and use and while they offer small volume options, if you're going to be doing a lot of stuff you want to buy the large sizes and the prices start to be $90 for this, $165 for that, $85 for that other thing, $98 for yet another, $63.25 for thing N, $42.50 for thing N+1, and so forth.


* * *


All of the above means that I'll probably stay in the ankle sprainer shoes coming apart in every conceivable place with the holes worn straight through the bottom and also never return to making shit.

But, on the plus side, moving forward I'll hopefully have new fic and decon posts and stuff.