Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Saturday, September 18, 2004

Isle Notes: episode ten

Garband, a merchant
the Landemarque Lushan: a man in his forties, with blue-black skin swathed in cloth
Max, a caravan guard
Burly, a caravan guard
Stevens, a caravan guard
the Numeric Tannelle: a beautiful woman in her late twenties
the Piscator Ronayon
Violet, a capon: a unit of Garband's inventory, upon which Elana practices her Oratorical skills

The Armory: located at the Quay of the Mariner near the Stolid Sea; home of water-based Sailors and flying Armorines
The Eidolon: home of the Numeric Tannelle
Falien: a fertile 'bread-basket' land which succumbed to crop blight, rumored to have been caused by the Itash family curse
The Fingers: five great towers located in the land of Hand, each said to be one of sixteen pathways to the Isle Above
The Griffin's Stone: a landmark in the locality of Meander, from which one can view much of the surrounding countryside
Lacur Desert: known for its perpetual giant dust devil--said to be one of sixteen pathways to the Isle Above--as well as for its enormous burrowing beetle, which, when turned on its back and sliced open, is a ready-cooked gastronomic delicacy
Land of the Forge: site of the Tinker wars; identifiable by a certain reddish line that appears on the horizon at sunset; a place to be avoided, especially by non-Tinkers
Marasgate: an estate of the Houses of Nobility; presumably the home of the Rich Man Mara; distinguished by the network of underground caverns that form the true wealth of Marasgate
Meander: a locality between Verraza and the city of the Beggar King
Parsus: one of the two 'cities of the Beggar King', currently engaged in the conflict waged by two warring Beggar-Kings; former source of lighter-than-air transportation
Rimar: a wild, snowy area close to Marasgate, inhabited by ice snappers, leucrottas both grand and commonplace, and khatirs (bird-cat hybrids rumored to have been created by a rogue female Joiner). Rimar's most distinctive feature is the Spirit Plume, a soaring geyser of crystal that is said to be one of sixteen pathways to the Isle Above

Part One

Having returned to Vast-of-the-future in hope of preventing the murder of the Tailor's apprentice Eloise, the intrepid trio of Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo join a merchant's caravan traveling through the locality of Meander. The caravan's route will take them most of the way to the city of the Beggar-King, where they hope to gain the assistance of Eloise's twin sister, the apprentice Beggarman Elke.

It is a ten-day journey to the river where the trio and caravan expect to part ways, so the three Isle natives take the time to practice some of their skills, get to know their traveling companions, and discuss their course of action over the three months they have been given to travel in the future Vast. Ellis and Zoilo speculate that Elana is now technically the Bastard, being (they believe) the Bastard Roman's eldest child.

Ellis also proposes forming an alliance with their five other cousins recruited by the Hollow, to which Zoilo concurs, while Elana expresses some reservations. They compromise by agreeing to discuss the matter further once Eloise has been rescued, in lieu of returning directly to Isle-at-Sea. In the course of this discussion, they are joined by the three caravan guards, who have much to contribute in the way of philosophy, conjecture, and theoretically-relevant gossip.

From Max, Burly, and Stevens, they learn a little more about the famed curse that follows members of the Itash family when three or more of them are gathered together (with consequences ranging from crop blight to murder), as well as an interesting tale concerning a pair of the Corezze twins--one fair but dark-souled, the other ugly but lovely of soul. Stevens insists that these are the twins immortalized as mammoth statues in the locality of Verraza (Elana and Ellis).

The guards go off to resume their duties, at which time the Landemarque Lushan joins the trio for mulled wine and conversation. Lushan is kind enough to show them some of the markings that glow blue upon his skin, forming a map of the Vast on his cloth-concealed body. From these maps and the accompanying stories told by Lushan, they are able to learn a little bit more about several regions of the Vast. Lushan also advises them to visit his friend, the Armorine Peregrine (to whom he owes a favor) if they ever happen to be in the vicinity of the Quay of the Mariner.

Part Two
After some days, the caravan stops to pay toll at the borders of the land of the Numeric Tannelle, said to be the greatest 'practitioner of Maths' of the age. To their surprise, Tannelle herself comes to collect the toll, which consists of any information of particular interest to the Numeric. She chooses Elana and Ellis to be the toll-payers, asking them where they are from, their mother's name, and why they are traveling in the Vast. From this, she is able to deduce that they hail from Isle-at-Sea, and appears vastly amused by the revelation.

Elana asks the Numeric, "What happens next?" and Tannelle, in turn, asks her to speak a number without thinking about it. Elana’s reply--four--is, she says, the answer to the question. Similarly, she allows Ellis to ask a question--"What do we do?"--and the answer is both five and eight. In addition, she tells the twins to beware of the number two, and Zoilo--"as an Itash"--to beware of the number three, which she tells him is coming his way soon. Finally, she warns them all to make haste, as the number they need is eight, "but seven looms"--presumably a reference to Elke's looming death at the hands of the Tailor Threadbare.

The Numeric gives them leave to pass through their lands and thereafter departs, leaving the trio both enlightened and confused. Zoilo realizes that the merchant Garband is, in fact, a member of the Itash family, making it perilous for them to encounter a third. He offers to leave the caravan, but Garband declines, determined to keep his word to deliver them to the river.

Meanwhile, Ellis approaches the caravan guard Max to ask for additional training as a fighter. He demands to know how they have found him out, by which they infer that he is a good deal more than a caravan guard. Elana makes a bet with him that she can find out his true identity--if so, he will teach Ellis two things, plus one thing of inestimable value. Max agrees, and the twins prevail upon Zoilo to use his Tinker abilities to question one of Max's possessions.

Max is revealed to be the master Bladearm Maxwell, currently on vacation to escape "the rabble" of students clamoring for his tutelage. Reluctantly at first, he begins to teach Ellis. Elana attempts to follow along on the sidelines, and, unable to resist correcting her stance, Max is eventually (and grouchily but really good-naturedly) drawn into teaching all three the basics of the Aperture Defense, Apport, and Distance Blade. Burly and Stevens, who turn out to be Maxwell's best and second-best students respectively, assist.

Part Three
A day away from their river destination, Max awakens Ellis in the wee hours of the morning to teach her the Soldier's trick of Drawing the Line, as well as an improved version of the Barber's Guarding the Compass. He tells her that these are extremely advanced lessons for a beginner, and confronts her with his suspicion that she is clearly not the Soldier's apprentice she claimed to be. Ellis confesses to being a Mimetic, which Max identifies as a very old craft, musing out loud, in addition, "Corezze, eh?" They both know that he more or less knows something is going on, but Max graciously lets the matter lie, instead selling Elana two flipant blades for Ellis's use.

Elana and Zoilo now being awake as well, preparations are made for breakfast, while Ellis goes to thank Burly and Stevens for their assistance in the training. Stevens confesses to being "grievously attracted" to Ellis, and gives her the "small gift" of a very large sword called Wave. Later that day, Ellis finds that the sword has shrunk to something more her size, and moreover, when drawn, manifests a portion of the Petal Armor seen on her statue in Verraza. An amazed Max reveals that Stevens is, in fact, Prince Esteban Ruiz, the Knight of Thorns; and that the gift of Wave carries with it not only the title of Knight of Thorns, but the corresponding responsibilities and enemies.

The trio is reeling from this when Elana senses a Rich Man's bid in the offing, presumably summoning her to the house of the Rich Man Mara, where she inadvertently appeared as a result of a miscalculation over a week ago. Having been warned not to show herself in that house, Elana outbids Mara in order to stay where she is.

This is quickly followed by an attempt on her life, an expenditure of two coins which she is permitted to counter with a bid of her own. Remembering Tannelle's admonition to beware of the number two, however, Elana declines, and is thus attacked by the Piscator Ronayon. Ronayon is stayed, however, upon his recognition of Elana from their previous encounter, as well as the arrayed force of Bladearms (including the master, whom he addresses as "Maximilius") and sundry standing at Elana's defense. He agrees to make a token attack for form's sake and then departs.

This is followed with a summoned lightning storm, which Zoilo deflects from Elana by means of a Tinkered lightning rod. Then a massive obsidian golem appears from out of a portal, with two lightning-shaped weapons in its hands. The golem attacks with the lightning, and the six Aperture Defense-trained people move smoothly aside. Standing directly in the path of the blow, however, is the merchant Garband, valiantly protecting his stock and clutching the capon Violet in his arms.
Nikki bit in at 2:59 PM :: ::
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