Salt and Sweet and Spice

Editor\'s PickSalt and Sweet and Spice
by Flame Warrior

Story Notes

Originally posted to Raythoo LJ group, Jan. 2005.

This just finished – it was supposed to be a fictionalised magical journal based on my experiences with Kamagrian magic, but it went off on its own merry way…

Constructive criticism gratefully received, as well as gut reactions.

Salt and Sweet and Spice

I am Yaleena Gimrahn, a parage of the Kamagrian, but I began life as a human female.

When I was twelve years old, my mother died. My brother had given her a difficult labour; her womb ripped and not even Wraeththu magic could heal the wound or staunch the flow of blood. We were taken in by the nearest estemble, looked after well enough, but I knew from the moment my mother breathed her last that there was nothing for me in Gimrah. As soon as I was able, I joined a team of traders and travelled all over Jaddayoth, wherever hara who travelled with humans were welcome, selling horses, buying food, spices, wool, whatever Gimrah needed.

The year of my twenty-second birthday, we arrived here, in Shilalama, with its honey-coloured stone, its peaceful life. At the time, I did not know what made me stay, only that I was grateful for the rest. Now, I know it was the call of Tel-an-Kaa, of Opalexian; of Kamagrian. Tel-an-Kaa told me I must have the touch of Lilith on my soul to have heard that call, even in the most dim and unconscious way, while still human.

I write this here to remind myself: how I came here, that I did have a life before. It is important to remember, and easy to forget. And very tempting. But I did not stay here to forget, I stayed here to know.

I asked to study before my inception, and Tel-an-Kaa approved. “To know what you want, you must first know yourself. If inception succeeds, Yaleena, there is no turning back.” I think she meant it as a warning of sorts, but it made my spine tingle with excitement. My heart leapt with hope. No turning back.

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Revelation

Revelation
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)

Story Notes

This idea popped into my head as I considered possible plots involving humans and hara interacting, then my fascination with birth, and then another long-standing fascination, which becomes evident as you go along — I’ll let it be surprise up front, however.

Characters
All original characters with concepts, vocabulary, etc., borrowed from Storm Constantine.

Spoilers
No spoilers for any specific book in the Wraeththu trilogy, but it is imagined that this entire storyline takes place sometime around the time period of Fulfilments, as Wraeththu are still ignorant of Kamagrians and there are incepted hara around.

Introduction

My name is Rev. Within a few days I may be dead or maybe disfigured. They tell me not to worry but I know it’s true, I’m facing a risk. They don’t know for sure what will happen. No one does. I don’t know myself. All I know is that while I am alive, I would at least like to have my story told, especially the story of my beginning. The beginning is probably going to be very closely tied in with my end. Uli and Sara say that’s too fatalistic of me, but they have agreed to help me anyway, by writing out their stories about that day. At the end of their stories I will write my own and then pray. I hope to escape my fate, but I know I really can’t. It is a choice I have made.

Chapter 1: Uli

Rev thinks inception will kill him but I am not so sure. He does not believe me. Instead, he presses this notebook into my hands and says I should write out his “beginning” before he faces the ending. I was a pessimistic child myself, but unlike Rev, I had reasons. When I was his age, the world had gone to hell. Rev has had many advantages I did not. Yet he fears for his life. True, it is not guaranteed that he will survive, given the risks in his case, but having more faith would help him. It is the power of faith, the power of intention, that might help him survive beyond any obstacles he might face from nature.

At any rate, I will do as he has asked. I will return to the beginning, the day of Rev’s birth.

I was working with a new foal on my estemble when I heard the familiar sound of the bell’s on Arzan’s bridle. Arzan was Jana’s pretty quiet mare. Nowadays Jana is a woman but in those days she was still a girl, only ten or eleven, I believe. I looked over to the stable entrance and saw her still mounted. I didn’t even have time to say hello. “The baby is almost here but Sara is having trouble, she wants you to come!” she squealed. Wincing at the hitch-pitched tone, I bellowed back for her to wait while I quickly finished up with the foal and gathered my gear.

Five minutes later we met up outside the stable. Jana was tense, clearly exhausted. “When did the labor start?” I asked as we began to head out. As we rode along, I got a briefing, though we were going at enough speed we had to raise our voices to talk. Jana told me the labor had been going on for two days so far, but really it had only been very bad since sunrise. It was now late afternoon. Jana had stayed up with Sara all night, along with Agatha, the midwife, who was doing her very best. The only one who had slept was Martin, Rev’s father, but now he was awake and very, very worried. Martin had also asked for me. A har could help her now, when she was so tired, wanting to give up but needing to keep it up. She needed strength, she needed healing, and they all knew I could give it, Jana said. I had done it before, for Martin’s birth. Now Martin was fifteen and shortly would be incepted. Such is the way of Gimrah.

When reached the house, tying the horses up in front, and hurried up to the side door, which I knew next to Sara’s bedroom. Although I hadn’t seen attended human births since Martin’s — Jana was adopted, rescued from Megalithica — I recognized at once that Jana was right and the end was coming soon. Sara’s voice gave it all away. She was keening by that point, high-pitched moans punctuated by curses. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I can’t… I can’t… Eeeeeeeeeeeee!”

I stepped through the door and she didn’t even notice. Agatha was sitting in a chair at the end of the bed, positioned between Sara’s legs, spread wide and shaking. The old midwife had her arms outstretched and Sara was clutching them. “Don’t be a fool, you can do this, Sara. If you trained Arlek out of being wild, you can do this. If you lived as a woman this long, you can do this. Come on now, it’s almost here.” I had never met Agatha until the week before, when I’d been invited to meet her. They had sent for her many months before and finally she had arrived, bringing with her a treasure trove of knowledge. In wild parts like these, there are few who have any knowledge of human births.

Faced with the spectacle of a human woman birthing in that time-honored method, I had the same gut reaction I’d had with Martin, only even strong this time — and mixed in with something new. With Martin, I’d thought of it as something amazing, a unique quality of human women — the ability to give birth. I had truly marveled at it. In the years since then, however, things had changed. Now I had a new perspective. Now birth was something we Wraeththu could experience for ourselves. I had borne two pearls of my own and my chesna Cleon had birthed another. Looking at Sara, I knew something of what she felt. Yes, pearls are somewhat smaller than babies and there are no messy body parts or tangled cords to worry about, but the Wraeththu body is not always very accommodating. I have been at that precipice, feeling the thing inside you and with all your being wanting it out.

In any case, I did not stand and stare, but came over to the side of the bed. Behind Sara, Martin was kneeling, looking frightened and ill as he braced her shoulders. I gave him a slow smile and sent him calming energy, hoping he would pick up on it. Then I turned to Sara, just as she turned to me. “Give me strength,” she said. Her face was red and sweating, her eyes bloodshot. “I know you can do it, please help me,” she begged. She turned away and closed her eyes, inviting me to begin. No more screams. She trusted me.

It did not take all that long. For twenty minutes I worked with her, feeding her strength, messages of calm, and offering her visualizations, stroking her arms along with her belly. Having birthed pearls myself was helping me. Agatha was helping me as well. Sharp old woman. Worth her weight in gold. Together we coached Sara along as she did all the work and finally, there was the top of the head, black hair like Martin’s. I told the boy to go around to meet his baby. All the blood and fluids were bothering him, but soon he’d been facing the unpleasantness of inception and he’d have to get used to it. Was this so different than helping the foals be born?

After only a few pushes, Rev shot out with a gush of fluid. Agatha caught him in a cloth turned receiving blanket, and after quickly rubbing his red face, immediately wrapped him and brought him to Sara’s chest. Sara couldn’t believe he was hers, just as I couldn’t believe my pearls were mine either. She stared at the little face. “You look like your father,” she cooed. Martin was shying away but Agatha made him come and see. His eyes were filled with wonder. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like I’m a father.” At that Rev let out a lusty, ear-splitting cry. Sara was crying too, but with happiness.

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The Immanion Enquirer Archives

The Immanion Enquirer: Archive
A Collaborative Project

Notes

First posted 2001.

Morning Edition: EARTHQUAKE ROCKS CITY

In The News
by Ramestton Ara

Someone Tell Pell!!!

As Immanion slowly quiets down from the disastrous noise of the mysterious earthquake, the aftershocks of its significance are still trying to sink in to bewildered hara all over the city. The latest reports I have received from my sources is that the Tigron is blissfully asleep as his almost half of his magnificent city crumbles to the ground in utter ruins.

Nothing has been heard of him and some insist that he has gone on exile from the city, most likely to Megalithica, leaving the Tigrina in control.

This of course, is the latest news in a string of fast and ever-changing rumors that have been cropping up by the half hour. His press aides have just released a press statement insisting that he is not asleep but is meeting with the Hegemony behind closed doors. Curiously, Lord Cedony and Lord Glave have been sighted around their palatial residences in the posh, exclusive Thandrello area, supervising the clear up of debris and so has Lord Ashmael. Lord Dree is reportedly out of the city on official business to the north with one of the Tribe Ambassadors; and Lord Chrysm and Lord Arahal are with battalions of Gelaming soldiers patrolling the city to maintain peace and order. Sources have also sighted Lords Eyra and Tharmifex in the center of Pell’s Colossi assessing the damage to public infrastructure and are in the process of compiling together a relief package for affected families. So if all the Hegemony are busy attending to other much more pressing matters, who exactly, by the precious Agahma, is mighty Pell meeting with? That is the multi-billion spinner question we are all eager to find out.

This new development highly contradicts the first reports that were flying about that the earthquake was caused by the intense sensation of the aruna being performed by the Tigron and Tigrina as they tried for another child. This was dispersed within hours and replaced by a more disturbing rumor that the legendary Calanthe, who had been sighted arriving the city yesterday is more likely the cause of this disaster. My informants close to the seat of power have said that this Calanthe, known to many internationally as just Cal, possesses awesome power that rivals even the Tigron’s and had come here to oust the Tigrina and take his place. Labourers at the port had earlier reported seeing him with eyes of pulsing fire, storming his way first to Lord Ashmael’s residence and later this morning, to the Palace in the company of two strange looking hara of which one is reported to be the son of the Castlehane of Jael.

Some had also tried to start the scandal of him having murdered Lord Ashmael early this morning but the General’s assistant personally informed me that he was very much well and unharmed. All this had been swept aside with fresh news that it was the full force of Thiede, the Tigron and this mysterious Cal having an argument that had caused this earthquake. Events are still very hazy as most people at Phaonica have either eloped or gone into hiding.

Meanwhile, Prince Abrimel has been seen at the up-market, trendy Golden Unicorn Inn, drinking at the secluded bar with Lord Sorche (Lord Dree’s son), and stating that everything was under control but that his parents might abdicate the throne in favour of Cal, yet another stranger to us.

The very few who populated the bar frowned at his insensitivity to the disaster at hand but none had the temperament to voice the wrong of his actions.

After all, what were they too doing there in the wake of such a confusing development? Plus, he is of course the Prince. Waiters later inform me that the two disappeared into one of the luxurious apartments upstairs. This seems to confirm earlier snippets of grapevine news that the two are romantically linked.

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Spring Rain

Spring Rain
by Martina

Editor\'s PickDisclaimer: This fictional world and all therein belongs to StormConstantine. I merely play here and intend neither harm nor gain. I am deeply grateful to her for the fact that she actually lets us do so with her full consent.

Thanks to Wiebke for beta reading this story; she caught my small mistakes and encouraged my characters and ideas wonderfully.

0.

At first, it seemed he just took his own sweet time. Then, he obviously procrastinated, after which he simply failed to turn up. He could be reached all right, open to prodding and nudging like all his fellow creatures, but he just wouldn’t react. Not at all. He merely puttered about his business; not badly, really, not selfishly – never that! – but simply and prosaically, as if it was just another job. He did all that he was expected to – apart from that one thing that gave meaning to all existence and that was his alone – and one other’s – to do.

Hanging timelessly in a web of its own enormous power, suspended and content in the continued unfolding of the world, the sublime mind did not really miss its earthly, fleshly mooring points – until, all at once, it lost its oceanic patience. Contracting, concentrating, it made its way down the tendrils of power, touched some outlets until it found a suitable vessel, and slid right in. It could afford the additional time it would have to wait now; now, the truant would be brought to heel. The mountain, so to speak, was well underway to the prophet’s hideout…

1.

If you believe the silly old song that “it never rains in southern Almagabra” – forget it! When I was leaving the palace after my audience, it was raining as badly as it had ever rained in the Gimrah plains on a very, very wet spring morning. Well, not my audience, really; I had been there with a whole bunch of provincial dignitaries. It was one of those occasions scheduled years in advance where you’d do exactly as you were told in order to get noticed for a moment. The Tigron was bored to distraction; most of us were only marginally more amused. I didn’t even know what I was there for; the appointment had been scheduled for our house something like half a decade ago, and whatever it was my consort had wanted from the Tigron, it was forgotten – my consort had died in a fall from a horse two winters back. My sons were busy with the foaling season, and I had time on my hands, as I’d never been much help with the rough side of animal reproduction and weren’t needed. Now, my mission was over; our house had been very suitably represented at court, and the gift of half a dozen fine and talented Faraldienne yearlings had been well received.

Taking a bunch of skittish young horses, however gifted, over land by other-lane would be utter foolishness, so we’d come by sea, travelling calmly on the surface of the planet. My attendants had gone back the same way, looking forward to a leisurely voyage at the time of year when everyone else was busy – on top of having seen the capital of the world, too. I claimed I was going to stay a few days longer, perhaps, and then go home with Stella, my mare who’d helped to keep the young ones disciplined, via the other-lanes. In truth, I doubted whether I’d ever be back. Cyriel was dead, my sons didn’t need me, really (I had never been good at practical things) and my daughter had gone to her training at Shilalama in Roselane – I was, in the middle of my life, suddenly utterly at loose ends. As long as I answered my family’s loving but perfunctory enquiries over the thought transference network, I was free to do whatever: get some higher caste training, spend an entire year in a Grissecon Temple, wander back into the southern deserts where I’d once come from.

The liberating loneliness was aggravated by the rain, really. Although I didn’t know what to do with my life, all the 80 or so years still ahead of me (Aghama willing), I definitely knew what to do next: get out of the rain.

The streets were deserted – very wisely, hara stayed out of the rain. I had been so eager to leave my former life for the unknown, however, that I felt I couldn’t stand another day and night at Phaonica’s common guest house with my compatriots who’d been at the mass audience alongside of me. I hadn’t even looked what the weather was like. Only now, as I was passing the majestic and forbidding crenellated red brick walls of Lower Phaonica with its administrative buildings and power hubs, the rain was starting to get at me. From the sea, Immanion was all bustling city, lofty avenues, tree-lined streets and remarkable history; here on the back side of the palace, hara were actually working.

There was a cab pole flashing its signal of low-intensity power ahead of me – but of Immanion’s famous historic Grissecon-powered public transport system, there was no trace. Too many of them needed at once, I guessed, what with this awful rain – nobody in his right mind would want to walk a step outside in this if he could ride a cab. Although the har – the hara – waiting at this pole definitely needed the cab more than most, I thought. At their sight, my heart instantly melted with sympathy.

The har didn’t even have a cloak; he stood there, just letting himself and his precious burden get soaked through. His hair was longish; colour or style could not be discerned right now as it was only wet and snaggled, nothing else. It stuck to his face and his clothes; it stuck to the bundle in his arms of which only two small hands clawing into the wet hair were visible, all else concealed by a large, wet blanket and a small, wet woolly hat. The har tried to shield the harling from the rain with his body, but miserably failed. He held the little creature intensely, possessively, but ineptly – clearly not yet used to it. At the sound of Stella’s hooves, the har lifted his head, regarding me with enormous, passive sea-green eyes, hopeless and resigned. The harling turned his head as well; he pointed at the horse and chirped, grinning at me widely with his four perfect little teeth – by the Aghama, the little one could be only hours old! His eyes, I could see from here, were amber. His woolly hat was dripping into them, but he didn’t mind – he was seeing the very first horse of his young life, I suspected, and he liked it.

I brought Stella to a halt.

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