Jan. 8th, 2011 04:07 pm
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
I like Numair.

There's a dissonance in the books, between how characters act and how the text treats them. I'm pretty sure this has come up in every one of these posts, and it will continue to. It is rarely more clear, imo, than with Numair.

Pierce seems to act, randomly, like Numair is some flighty, immature mage. But, aside from one really out-of-character scene in early PotS (one that seriously makes me wonder if he has a special little garden somewhere), we're not shown that - and what we know of his history makes it unlikely that he would be either flighty or immature.

You can't really be either and successfully escape from the Emperor Mage of Carthak, or survive on the streets of Tortall - or, for that matter, be a mage as powerful as Numair is without blowing your ass up.

This is why, incidentally, Pierce's flippant explanation for why Daine and Numair are soulmates bothers me so damn much - Daine in the books reads very immature to me ... and Numair doesn't read particularly immature at all. I sometimes wonder if Pierce honestly knows her own characters, or pays any attention to what the hell she writes.

The most glaring example of the textual dissonance, for any character, occurs in WM. The setup for it is this: Daine, ignorant of what she's doing, uses meditation on a whim to stop her heart. And Numair yells at her for this - and not particularly nastily, either.

...And every. single. character. in that scene makes some comment belittling his anger, and talking about how utterly unreasonable it is. Daine even makes some condescending (but, admittedly, in-character for a bratty teen) comment about not being able to talk to him with "this pet he's in".

All I could think about, for that whole scene, was that Numair was right to yell at Daine. Sometimes, especially when dealing with potentially dangerous crafts - and what is more dangerous than magic? - you have to yell. I've been yelled at, a lot, for doing stupid shit when crafting ... and no, ignorance is no excuse. She stopped her heart because she wanted to hear the whales. Daine damn well deserves at least a round of yelling ... but when Numair does this, the text unambiguously and emphatically sides against him, in a way that makes it abundantly clear that Pierce wants us to see Numair as unreasonable and his anger as over-the-top and silly.

Um. No.

This is why I find it hard to talk about her characters, and why I find these posts, frustrating as they are, valuable. It's almost like there are two characters (or more): the one who shines through in action, and the one(s) we're told via text (or deuterocanon) exists. There's the flawed (and more interesting, imo) Alanna you see if you look at her actions - and there's the perfect and frankly Sue-ish Alanna of the text/deuterocanon. Sometimes, there's a third version, the ideal, like we see with Daine: there's the not-really-all-that-nice Daine evidenced by her actions, the text!Daines who are all some variant of Awesome Ecowarrior after WM, and this shadowy Platonic form of Daine, who I can sort of see when I think through what Pierce was likely trying to do with her (and failing, imo).

We get the show/tell split with Numair, pretty explicitly. What we see of how Numair acts doesn't match what the text tries to tell us, or what Pierce tries to tell us. I keep pointing to that Daine-stops-her-heart scene because it's only the most obvious instance of this dissonance that I see: I don't see an unreasonable man at all.

As an aside, I'm sick of Pierce belittling male anger, not least because she sets up this male anger bad/female anger good split that ends up belittling female anger too, by making it just some cute personality trait, and not a flaw for women. Look. I know that too often in fiction and real life female anger is belittled - hello, I'm a temperamental female, I've experienced that often. But the solution is not to then go "Ha! I will belittle MALE anger instead, and make female anger always cute and righteous!"

I don't like hard dualism in any form. I also don't agree with any form of feminism that utilizes dualism at all - and Pierce's morals in Tortall are very dualistic. This is a huge part of why I also get so damn frustrated that all good women in Tortall can fight somehow; it's fine and laudable to say that women can fight, but it's a really warped aesop to take it as far as Pierce does, and say that to be a good/worthwhile woman you must fight.

...And I'll leave that for the Varice post, and get back to Numair.

Ok, head-canon. Most of this will be jossed when the Numair book comes out, I'm sure.
-The Numair we see in canon is largely a facade. He's still a nice guy, but his real personality is not all that jokesterish, and he's got a dark side. (I wish people in canon actually had dark sides... *sigh*)
-Numair, power-wise, is not much more powerful than Roger and Thom, if he's more powerful at all. It's more that he has a ton of esoteric knowledge, thanks to the Carthaki university, that they don't.
-Numair's Gift either was always black with sparkles (gah) or, if I actually use Pierce's incredibly stupid deuterocanon, it changed color from amber because the uni students learned ways to recolor their Gifts, not because he's so uber-powerful or any shit like that.
-If Numair recolored his Gift, his grandma gave him hell for it.
-Numair has a scary grandma.
-Numair is much more loyal to Tyra than Jon - or Daine, for that matter - realizes. I'm working on an AU where he's actually a Tyran agent, but even in canon or non-badass-Tyra fics, I still see him as being very strongly loyal to his home country ... and not really all that happy with being the pet mage of another monarch, though it's better than life on the streets.
-Numair was living on the streets for longer than just a few months. (Where the hell did that fanon convention come from, anyway?)
-Numair had to flee Carthak because he refused to do battle magic for Ozorne.
-Numair's bisexual, and may have had a not-terribly-good-but-he-was-young-and-clueless relationship with Ozorne. If he did, he cottoned on to how awful and manipulative Ozorne was around the time he fled.
-Numair has trouble saying no to women when they proposition him. This is literally the only explanation I can swallow for why he marries a former student who has nothing more than a major crush on him. Well, the only explanation that doesn't make him basically predatory.
-Numair falls out of love with Daine really fast, though he won't leave her or the kids.
-Numair and Onua are really good friends. Onua is actually his best friend, which he'd tell you if you asked.
-Numair is a verbose and sometimes morose drunk, and his reflexes get faster when tipsy ... because he usually moves slower than he could, which is a street magician's trick.
-Actually, I'm wrong. There's another potential explanation for him marrying Daine I can sort of buy, but it requires me to assume things about godborns that aren't at all evidenced in the text - and that's that, basically, he sort of has to to keep her from going on a Carthaki-palace-style rampage when she's refused. GOD, Daine/Numair is so squicky and wrong and out-of-character for Numair, and it's pretty sad when the only way to make your wondrous love match work is to assume that one or the other partner is morally fucked up. Either Numair's a predator, or Daine's hugely unbalanced. THANKS, Pierce. (This is why in most of my fics, Daine/Numair never happens. I can't square it with their characters.)
-Numair likes needling Jon and Alanna. Jon's wise to it, but Alanna never quite catches on that it's deliberate.
-This isn't quite head-canon, but I've toyed with the idea that a young Numair has already enacted the necessary magics for the Sorcerer's Sleep, and so if Numair is ever killed, there's potential for a Roger-style resurrection. Zombie!Numair may not be insane if this happens, but his Gift would go back to its natural color.
-Another not-quite-head-canon bit: I toy with the idea that it wasn't the simulacrum that died, but the real Numair. It would be a neat, if dark, way to explain away Numair's out-of-character reciprocation of Daine's crush in RotG, and Numair's ooc flightiness in early PotS.
-Young Numair was actually not all that fond of Lindhall, until things went to hell with Ozorne and Lindhall got him the hell out of the country. Now Lindhall's his favorite teacher ever.
-Young Numair was a hell of a brat, and prone to pranking his teachers. Really unsubtly, too. This is directly responsible for why young Numair's not fond of Lindhall. XD
-If Numair had stayed in Carthak, he would have married Varice. They were genuinely in love.


My Fics
Canon compliant:
Her - Numair learns the hard way not to go pub-crawling with Lindhall.
Love Consumes All Things - Ozorne has only ever had one great love in his life.
Traitors and Monsters - Ozorne and Arram. Sometimes, falling in love is the start of the whole downfall.

Allegiance AU:
Difference - Daine comes to Tortall. Things are different, in this world.

Making the Best of Things AU:
So far, Numair's a pretty minor character in this 'verse, but he does show up in the following two fics.
Some People - Ten people who weren't ever wary of Thom, and one person who should've been.
Weird Folk - Ten friends Daine makes in Tortall.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
Numair becomes a major character in this 'verse.
Never - Thom never asks Numair what he sees in the charms.
Old Ghosts - Numair never looks Thom in the eye.
Fools in Love - Daine asks an impertinent question.
The Way to His Heart - Numair can cook a grand total of three things.
Nine Clues - Nine ways Thom knows Numair is just as broken as he is. Spoilers for an in-progress fic.
Reasons - Numair is a silly romantic, which makes him way too easy to tease.


Jan. 7th, 2011 07:07 pm
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
This is the one post I was dreading the most, and the reason I've not posted more head-canon stuff is that I sort of feel like I ought to get through the heroines, more or less, first. (Well, except for Thom, and Numair's the next post slated.)

I love the concept of Daine. I like her a lot in WM, and I think she's a fine secondary character in later canon.

I cannot stand the later three books of her quartet, and she is a large part of why. (The really horribly done cutesy animals are the rest of the reason. WM gave me hope; WS took it all away again.)

First, what I like. I like the sweet, somewhat shy commoner of WM. I like how in WM we see how she has troubles identifying with humans, and overidentifying with animals, and it's all treated like just more, well, problems that she'll have to overcome. (Numair's random curing her madness was a touch too pat for my tastes, but bearable, especially since WM makes it pretty clear it doesn't cure her of her identification issues.) I love the idea of her magic, and watching her tentatively explore it was hella fun.

And then boom, in WS, we no longer have Daine, we have Generic Spunky Heroine (Ecowarrior Subtype). There is no progression from Daine in WM to Daine in WS, psychologically; nothing that we're shown. If there is one thing I absolutely demand in stories, it's a sense of psychological realism; I can assume a lot, but you can't just expect me to assume necessary character growth. I have to see it, and we never do with Daine, not between any of her many changes.

Let me interject here: I am passionately, rabidly environmentalist (though of the "use all of the animal and kill it humanely" subset). But if there's one thing I loathe in fiction, it's the ecowarrior, especially the one who Has A Magic Bond With Nature. Daine in WM was most definitely not this; her overidentifying with animals was a problem. In WS, we suddenly get a really obnoxious aspect of Later Daine: her overidentifying with animals leads to her fucking up with humans - and the narrative treats this all as totally right.

We see this same obnoxious trait over and over again in EM, where Daine repeatedly does things that jeopardize the diplomatic party of which she's a part. She may not be an official negotiator, but you know what? That doesn't matter. There are standards of behavior expected of all members of a diplomatic party, and Daine's not excused just because she's "only" there for the Emperor's birds.

Later Daine is also incredibly judgmental. She (really rudely, esp. for a member of a diplomatic party) decides to teach the boys a lesson in EM - and I hated the sense that I was supposed to cheer her on, just like I hated the sense that I was supposed to root for Daine being an utter ass and jeopardizing the Dunlath mission because the wolves wouldn't understand. Daine, honey, that's what explanations are for.

Most irritatingly, Daine is incredibly judgmental towards Varice. This bugs me greatly for reasons I'll expand upon in a Varice post, but what really irks me is how the text gives Daine what's supposed to be this character-growth moment where Daine realizes she's being judgmental ... except Daine comes off as incredibly condescending. And she's condescending towards her mother, too.

Daine, to me, is the most Sue-ish of Pierce's heroines after Aly. (All Pierce's heroines are Sue-ish. It is, admittedly, part of being a hero ... except Pierce's heroines never really struggle, and are never really wrong. Unconvincing lip service is paid to both notions, and it's never really less convincing than here with Daine.)

Daine being godborn just felt really tacked on, and irked me. Pierce has this trend, with Tortall, of never really being able to write commoners without making them noble or better; the only two commoners, eventually, are Daine and Numair - and Daine's (unconvincingly) godborn, and Numair is so damn powerful and such a fixture of Jon's court that he might as well be noble.

I also loathe to no end Daine/Numair. Honestly, I knew pretty early on that Daine had a crush on Numair, but it never ever felt like real love to me, even though all of the fourth book was contrived to take Daine and Numair away from the main action and force them into a really squicky romance. (It's not the age gap that bothers me, so much - it's that RotG reads like she's still his student. And it all still reads as a crush.)

This is all probably why I have a tendency to break up Daine and Numair in my fics, or never have the relationship form; I see it only forming under really contrived circumstances. Also, no matter what Pierce says, Daine is not mature for her age; she's really rather immature.

Daine/Numair is like Alanna/Jon - they don't really click, and the relationship is bad for both parties. With Alanna/Jon, Pierce actually took a step back and really thought about it, and broke them up; I wish she'd had the insight to do that to Daine and Numair.

...I just realized another reason Daine/Numair squicks me: Numair is just about the only person Daine hangs out with, after WM where she spends time with Onua. Sure, lip service is paid to Daine still working with Onua later - but we never, ever see that again. It's the Daine and Numair show, and it creates this feeling that Daine is only ever around him. The world of TIQ is really claustrophobic, basically, and Daine/Numair is now starting to seem incredibly creepy to me.

Daine, by the way, is superb with a bow, which feels very Sue-ish, the way it's handled. She's the commoner girl SO GOOD she leaves everyone in awe - oh, please. (Incidentally, anyone else note that throughout the Tortall books, it's the ladies who don't/won't/can't fight who get scorn and condescension? The Tortall books are very clear: girls, if you don't want to fight, you're useless and silly.)

And, lastly, I hate the dehumanization of people in the later books. "Two-legger" sets my teeth on edge; calling all the animals "The People" and acting like they're more worthwhile than humans drives me nuts. In WM it was interesting because Daine's tendency to do this was treated like a problem, which it damn well is. The later books throw that all right out the window and expect us to be on Daine's side on all of this - sorry, no. Humanity will always come first for me, and I find the dehumanization we see in TIQ morally repugnant.

Also, wtf is up with acting like humans aren't animals? Or acting like animals are all morally right and wouldn't understand attacking others of their own kind? And while we're at it, can Daine's magic please stop randomly changing to fit the plot? And could more animals than rats hate her, or be suspicious of her? Also, it'd be lovely to see some kind of animal that she can't control; her perfect ability to control all vertebrates is a large part of what makes her so Sue-ish.

OMFG, how did I forget the one thing that made me start actively disliking Later Daine? The fucking temper tantrum she throws in the Carthaki palace. You cannot convince me no one died in that dinosaur rampage; you cannot convince me that the devastation she wreaked was justified. Why did she pitch such a colossal fit? She thought Numair was executed. Okay, you know what? I can understand that, especially for someone who really isn't shown to have much of a moral compass beyond "whatever the animals want is awesome!".

Then the text turns it into a joke. Daine is worried people back home might be upset; every Tortallan in the envoy is all "don't worry about it at all, dear, it's just a story to them". Kaddar and the text act like it's amusing that anyone could possibly want Daine punished for destroying the Carthaki palace, killing God knows how many people, while part of a diplomatic envoy suing for peace. Um. Am I the only one who wonders why it's so cute and okay and funny for Our Heroine to destroy a palace, when it was so Hideous and Awful when a certain smiling duke tried that in Corus?

Let me stop while I'm ahead and simply say that any argument that hinges on Daine being forced to by the Hag, or being distraught, or any other such excuse that lets her off the hook for her actions does. not. work. for me - unless you are willing to make the same excuse for Roger, who was out of his fucking mind at the time. I'm sorry, but madness is more justifiable for me than a fit of temper. Oooh, gee, Numair died. Well, honey, what are you going to do when he eventually does buy the farm? Trash Corus if he died in bed? Rip another country to shreds if he dies on a mission?

The Daine who throws that temper fit I unabashedly hate. If it weren't for the fact that her character as written is so damn disjointed that I can't really connect the Daines of each book, it would ruin her character for me entirely.

I have no head-canon for Daine, other than that I'm starting to become convinced she's some kind of sociopath, and I'm starting to become more and more certain that her marriage with Numair falls apart real fast. (I suspect she'd just take off one day and leave him with the kids. I ... don't really see her being mature enough to raise them.)

I want to reiterate: I really like the idea of Daine. I like to explore her interactions with characters not named Numair in fics; I like to see how my AUs would affect her plot. I think her story and character were horribly mishandled, and part of what angers me so much with the later three books is that I can almost see what Pierce was going for - and it fails miserably for me.


My Fics
Canon compliant:
None yet.

Allegiance AU:
Difference - Daine comes to Tortall. Things are different, in this world.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Weird Folk - Ten friends Daine makes in Tortall.

Snake in the Grass AU:
Daine is an important secondary character in the foundation fic for this 'verse.
The Morning Star - Thom is stuck visiting his family at the Swoop when a certain fleet attacks it.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
Daine becomes a pretty major secondary character in this 'verse.
Fools in Love - Daine asks an impertinent question.
The Way to His Heart - Numair can cook a grand total of three things.
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Thom is probably my single biggest reason for ficcing SotL so much. I just like him. (Dunno why; he's an utter ass.) Also, he's one of the most vexing examples of something that's an unfortunate trend for Pierce: the derailed character.

Let me get this out of the way: yes, I think it's totally possible for an author to write their own characters out-of-character. Pierce does it repeatedly.

Through most of SotL, Thom is actually more paranoid over Roger than Alanna is. He's also the one who pieces everything together, and keeps having to nag his sister via letter to remain on her guard.

Then he randomly raises Roger from the dead. Why? Because Delia said he couldn't.

Are you kidding me?

The other vexing thing about this is that Alanna is very clear in the very first book: among other things, Thom can see the future. So, uh. Was he just not looking that day? Paranoid Thom? Who suspected Roger all along, who played dumb for years to avoid drawing Roger's suspicion, who was more sure of Roger's perfidy than Alanna was?

This all just doesn't add up.

I'm also not entirely convinced that his random stealing of Alanna's Gift is all that in-character for him, either.

Leaving that whole matter aside. It's pretty clear in canon he's a genius; he's a Master at seventeen, has been ready for it for at least a year, and was playing stupid for literally years beforehand. (Which, come to think of it, is probably what really annoys his teachers. Speaking as a substitute teacher and sometime tutor, there's nothing more obnoxious than a smart kid playing dumb. And yes, it's always horribly obvious, too.)

I also think that while he and Alanna may have been born with the same strength Gift (we really don't know either way), it's pretty clear he's got a broader affinity, and with his training, by the end of ItHotG if not sooner, he's probably both stronger and a hell of a lot more knowledgeable than Alanna, with her limited interest in magic, will ever be.

My other big problem with Thom is that his death is so random. It feels wasteful, like Pierce wanted some pathos but didn't want to off a character we (or Alanna, apparently) actually cared about. I think one major reason I do so many SotL AUs is that I'm utterly fascinated by all the possibilities of what could have happened if Thom had lived.

Also, I think it's hilarious that Thom is apparently a Mithran priest. Can you imagine anyone less devout?

-He's gay. I have written the rare fic where he's not, but my head-canon is still that Thom's gay.
-Roger planted a compulsion in Thom at some point - that if Roger died and thus triggered the Sorcerer's Sleep, Thom would, when triggered, raise him. This is literally the only plausible explanation I can come up with for why on Earth Thom would raise Roger.
-Honestly, and I don't know where this comes from, but I always see him as being more aware of others' feelings and thoughts than Alanna. (Oh. Wait. I know where part of it comes from - Alanna's mention that among other things, Thom can read minds.)
-I think, given that he was initially trained by the village healer, he's probably a pretty decent healer himself, even if he's not that interested in it.
-Roger either seduced or compelled Thom into sleeping with him. (Or some combination of both; I think compulsions need something there to glom onto.) I see this happening both before Roger died the first time, briefly (and thus being when Roger managed to plant the other compulsion mentioned above), and after Roger's resurrected. I also don't usually think it was all that happy a relationship.
-Along with the above point, I am fairly certain Thom was in Corus for at least a few days prior to Alanna's knighting. Probably longer, given what we're later told of the state of the roads from the north.
-Thom is pretty wary of his sister. I mentioned this in the Alanna post, but we know basically two things about their childhood relationship: Alanna was the more physical one, and Alanna ducked him in the pond at least once (and brings this up, years later, to get Thom to shut up and stop needling her). I suspect that what Alanna sees as just her playing around or getting a bit exasperated, Thom would see as bullying. The first thing I flashed to, reading the ducking-in-the-pond line, was Raoul and all holding Ralon underwater, which was probably not what Pierce was going for (and it's pretty clear that we're meant to cheer Ralon being half-drowned, which is disturbing), but has tainted that line for me ever since.
-Thom likes the cold north, and heights, and the simple dark stone construction in the mountains. He is really not a people person (understatement of the century, what), and is not at all fond of busy places like cities.
-Thom is nearsighted. It occurred to me that the two major things Alanna mentions Thom being bad at - archery and tracking - require decent distance vision. I can't do either, without my glasses. (Idly, I wonder if there's any way to correct vision in Tortall.)
-(that stupid crap about Gift color aside) Thom, Roger, and Numair are all roughly about as powerful as each other. Actually, I'd peg Roger as the weakest of the three.
-(I have NO canon support for this next bit at all) Thom is in a tricky legal situation when it comes to Trebond, after Lord Alan dies. Somehow, in my head-canon, Mithran priests can't inherit property. I think this came about largely because I was sort of wondering why we never heard of any other noblemen going there, and why Jon would feel it necessary to start up another institution for learning magic if the City of the Gods was already there. (Maybe he pissed off all the Mithrans?) I'm pretty sure that this issue would have cropped up before, but I suspect that the probable solution - give up his Mastery to go run the fief - would not sit well with Thom at all. (Honestly, most of this came about because I love complicated situations with no easy solution. That I can make it work with canon is a bonus.)
-Given half a chance, Thom is a terrifyingly good strategist.
-Thom sees glimpses of the future. A lot. It's his primary affinity, and he can scry in anything - often not even deliberately.
-Thom had too strong a Gift to have safely avoided training it. (My head-canon seems to be on the side of "yes, Thom is stronger than his sister".) I do think we see enough evidence that untrained Gifts are potentially dangerous that it's fully possible an undertrained Thom would have been a walking disaster.
-Thom is a sappy and affectionate drunk. This disturbs him, so he rarely drinks. (Though I can also see him faking drunk, for the freedom it'd give him.)
-And now for a bit of AU-canon: in any 'verse where Thom takes up the sword, he's the natural that Alanna had to learn to be. (Mostly just because it would vex Alanna terribly.)


My Fics
Canon compliant:
Compulsion - Thom never knows why he sleeps with Roger. Canon compliant.
Nothing But Pleasure - Roger is a sadist.
Both of the above are part of the What a Flicker Brings AU, but they are also canon-compliant.
Foretelling - Thom has always been able to see the future.
Growing Pains - Si-cham vs. a certain ornery student.
Letters from the Dead - Fifty letters to the living. Thom's not a major character here, but really, no one is.
Making Conversation - Jon and Thom have precisely one conversation.
The Meaning of Life - Four universes in which Thom doesn't die young.
Radiance - There are only two things Thom has ever loved.
World On Its Head - Also includes the sentence-fic "Sacrifices". Two glimpses of a pivotal moment not seen in canon.

Miscellaneous AUs:
Song of the Seer - My first "the twins don't switch" fic.
Stricken to the Bone - Thom and Alanna both go for page training.

Discovery AU:
This AU centers on Alanna, but Thom is a secondary character. He does get a short little fic, though.
Sounds - To George, Thom isn't silent.

The Iron King AU:
Glass - Killing someone while they're Sleeping is not a wise idea.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Thom is a major character in the whole AU. Here are the main fics where he appears.
Burning Brightly - Jon wants to go explore the Black City. Fortunately, Thom is there to stop him.
New Things - Roger always knew that page was insane.
Some People - Ten people who weren't ever wary of Thom, and one person who should've been.
Irony - Of all the ways Roger could die, it is the Sweating Sickness that fells him.
Jollity - Owen needs a knight-master.

Patchwork AU:
In this 'verse, the Grimhold Mountains are their own country, and Tortall itself is very small.
Ten Scenes from Another World - A short history lesson, and what happens when Tortall sends an embassy to Grimhold.
Away - The twins are celebrating Midwinter separately, and Thom is pensive. This fic may no longer be canon for this 'verse.
Epiphany - Roger figures something out.

Snake in the Grass AU:
Another AU all about Thom. I am not sure how to describe this, save to say that I am ridiculously proud of it.
The Morning Star - Thom is stuck visiting his family at the Swoop when a certain fleet attacks it.
Caduceus - A traitor gets a visitor.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
This AU is all about Thom, and he is in every fic. I am only listing the main fic and a few of my favorites below; for the full list, click the series title.
What a Flicker Brings - Thom gets a glimpse of the future in his mug. The foundation fic for this 'verse.
Bitterness - Thom does not like Carthak.
Ethics - Page training is about to start, and Lord Wyldon's ethics teacher has just up and quit. Of course King Jonathan has a suggestion. Major spoilers for an in-progress fic.
Talking Treason - Thom and Kel have a conversation.


Dec. 28th, 2010 02:49 pm
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Of all the Tortall series, I fic most for SotL, so I have to spend a lot of time thinking about Alanna. After Kel, she's my favorite of the heroines, but I always feel at least a little bad writing her - it always feels like I'm taking something away from her, because I mostly write AUs, and things go so ridiculously, implausibly perfectly for her in SotL that literally any change makes things start falling apart. (Not that this means her life in these AUs turns out bad, just different.)

So I guess, in retrospect, what bothers me most about Alanna is how contrived her life is by the end of SotL. Also, in getting my thoughts in order to make this post, I came to realize that I unabashedly like SotL-Alanna; it's the glimpses we see of her later that drive me nuts. She really starts going off the rails for me in that first scene in FT, where it seems she's almost become a parody of herself.

I don't find even early Alanna unproblematic, though. It bothers me endlessly that the story never grapples with her biggest flaws - her temper (which is treated as cute), her self-righteousness (she's always right), or her hypocrisy (she's all about duty, supposedly, yet repeatedly runs away and encourages others to do so). The story also never grapples with how her ambition and her drive are double-edged swords. I think that her being made Champion only serves to exacerbate these flaws, not temper them; I can think of few jobs she's more ill-suited to. I honestly think she would have been better served and even more useful as an ordinary knight.

This next thing is a problem I have with all the heroines, but I might as well mention it here: they never seem to lose anything, never seem to give anything up that actually matters. That's one of the reasons I'm so mean to Alanna in fic; I want to see what she'd do if she actually lost something - an opportunity, an accomplishment, a person who actually impacts her. I firmly believe that it's how we react to failure that really matters - but Alanna never really fails.

I am endlessly intrigued by the little glimpses of more depth to Alanna that we get in SotL - I am especially intrigued by her clear interest in the Old Ones and Myles' ruins, and I wish all that hadn't been dropped like a hot potato.

-A lot of Alanna's success is, actually, due to the fact she's god-touched. If nothing else, it's the only way I can satisfactorily explain away the progress reports.
-Alanna doesn't have a great relationship with her kids. At the least, it's a distant one fraught with a lot of misunderstanding. How bad it is, exactly, depends mostly on how angsty I feel like writing at the time.
-Jon only sent Alanna off on that diplomatic trip to Carthage because she was getting on his nerves and he wanted her gone for a while. (In fact, I think that explains everyone he sent, since that envoy's filled with a lot of dumb choices.)
-I sometimes like to think that later, if she ever actually matures a bit, Alanna ends up retiring from being Champion to take over Myles' role as history teacher. I liked the glimpses we saw of Alanna the teacher, though I think she'd be a shitty training master, and I liked the glimpses we got of Alanna being interested in history. (I can see basically two paths for Alanna - she never really grows up, and so never really retires, or she eventually learns to accept aging with grace and finds some other way to be useful.)
-She was never afraid of magic, but she used it as an excuse enough (because she didn't like practicing it) that she half believed it. Honestly, though - even before the Sickness she's awfully quick to threaten Coram with visions, and the whole thing with the cook's visions sounds far more Alanna-ish to me than Thom-ish, not least because she seems to be the more dynamic of the twins.
-She never had the best relationship with Thom, and is not entirely sure why. I see her as a rough-and-tumble girl, and there's that line about her ducking him in the pond that she uses to basically shut him up. I suspect that what she saw as just roughhousing he saw as bullying; I also think she sees him as somewhat pathetic. She really doesn't seem to think too highly of her brother in canon.
-Alanna thinks she got over Thom's death, but never really did. (Why yes, it does rather disturb me that in canon she seems to grieve more for Liam than her own brother.) I sort of suspect that she's used to pushing thoughts of her brother aside, even while he was alive, and she just does the same here and thinks she's over it. I also suspect this colors her relationship with her eldest, because superficially there's enough similarity there to raise all sorts of old ghosts. (Again, how deeply this taints Alanna's relationship with her son depends on how angsty I'm getting.)
-I'll get into this more in a later post on the kids, but I think Alanna feels that none of them turned out quite right; I also think the one she actually understands is Aly. Alan (even my happy version of him) deeply unsettles her; Thom is different and distant in ways she can't quite get.
-At some point in the ten-year gap between LR and WM, someone actually made Alanna get some more comprehensive/official training as a healer. (Honestly, in canon this bugs the SHIT out of me - all other healers we see in Tortall are trained; Alanna isn't, but somehow that's perfectly ok, she's just as good as the trained ones. See also: WWRLAM, and how barely-trained-in-magic Alanna is suddenly competent enough to be a Bazhir shaman and teacher of magic.) Either that, or somehow despite Alanna's apparently incredible reluctance to learn, Maude somehow forced her to learn enough healing that Alanna's actually qualified to do so.


My Alanna Fics
Alanna is a secondary or background character in a lot of my fics, and in compiling this list, I realized that I have written a lot of fics that are about her but do not have her in them. Those fics aren't linked below, only ones in which she is a major character.
Canon compliant:
Midwinter Tradition - It's Midwinter, and Alanna has someplace to be. So of course she has to kick Neal out of bed for it.

Canon-compliant but I consider it AU:
Red and Yellow - Jon really shouldn't have sent her to Carthak.

Miscellaneous AUs:
Kiss and Tell - Delia figures out a thing or two about Squire Alan. Could, with some juggling, be considered canon-compliant.
Song of the Seer - My first "the twins don't switch" fic. I am not nice to Alanna in this fic, at all.
Stricken to the Bone - Thom and Alanna both go for page training.

Allegiance AU:
Difference - Daine comes to Tortall. Things are different, in this world.

Discovery AU:
Discovery - Lord Alan gets two progress reports.

The Iron King AU:
This AU is all about Alanna, in a way, as it is her decision to marry Jon that starts the divergence. The only fic so far directly featuring Alanna is The Iron King.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Another series heavily featuring Alanna; the fics where she is a major or main character are the only ones listed below, but she shows up in others.
First Impressions - Jon and company meet Alanna.
Odd Couple - Francis attempts to woo his ladylove.
Burning Brightly - Jon attempts to clear out the Black City.
Heroism - the major Alanna fic in this 'verse. What happens to Alanna when she goes to convent instead.
Scrap of a Dream - Alanna dreams.

Patchwork AU:
Another AU that heavily features Alanna, though so far she only shows up in the founding fic. In this 'verse, the Grimhold Mountains are their own country, and Tortall itself is very small.
Ten Scenes from Another World - A short history lesson, and what happens when Tortall sends an embassy to Grimhold.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
This AU diverges because of and centers on Thom, but you can't really write any AU about Thom that doesn't heavily feature Alanna. She's central to these two stories in particular.
What a Flicker Brings - Thom gets a glimpse of the future in his mug.
Three Months - What happens during the time skip in What a Flicker Brings.
zodiacal_light: I will tell the audient void... [fractal] (the audient void)
Roger should have inherited the crown of Tortall.

All this hinges on one thing: that we accept the information Ms. Pierce provides in interviews.

We have three important bits of info.

Roger was 15 when Jon was born.
Roald was 31 when Jon was born.

Ergo, Roald was about 16 when Roger was born.

Roger's father pretty much had to be a Conté. Let us assume, and it is an assumption, that Roger was not a bastard.

Further, judging by the text, people in Tortall - the nobles, anyway, and especially the men - do not marry young.

Therefore, Roger's father had to be older than Roald.

Here is where the third bit comes in:

When talking about succession after Jon, we are told explicitly that the crown would pass from Jon, to Roald, to Lianokami, and only after that would it go to Liam.

Now, we have to make one assumption here: that while Jon and Thayet pushed through laws that enabled the crown to pass to women, they did not fundamentally alter the pattern of Tortallan succession. To do so would have been a much greater change, and one much less likely to pass. Also, given that this happens before the princes and princesses are born, there is no way to know how many children Jon would have, and certainly Lianokami wasn't born yet, so therefore there was no reason to alter the succession to favor Jon's first grandchild over his second child.

Walk that back a bit, and put the two bits together: Roger's father would have been Jasson's heir before Roald. Tortallan succession would privilege Roger - the child of Jasson's heir - over Roald - Jasson's younger son.

Therefore, Roger was the legitimate heir of the Tortallan crown.

There are, of course, ways around this. But that requires work.


Nov. 26th, 2010 01:32 am
zodiacal_light: The most merciful thing in the world ... is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. (the most merciful thing)
He has no idea how he ended up in bed with Duke Roger. He has no idea why, or what he was thinking, he has no idea where this sudden deep craving for the other mage's presence has come from. Deep in his mind, he might know that Roger isn't simply meeting his eyes to be polite, but that awareness, if he has it at all, will never rise to the level of consciousness.

Eventually, in some twisted, desperate form of self-defense, his mind will interpret the compulsion as love. But for now, all Thom knows is that he is now Roger's, and there was nothing he could do about it.


Nov. 26th, 2010 01:29 am
zodiacal_light: AU: Because everything's better with zombies. (AU)
The room, most people would say, is utterly silent.

George is not most people. He has not gotten where he is in life by being unaware of the small details. The scuff of a shoe, the scrape of chairs, a huffed breath - George notes it all. The wind has picked up outside; it's rattling the shutters. Downstairs, in the main room of the Dove, 'Fingers is being rather jolly; he's celebrating Alanna's being a girl for the third straight week in a row. Last night, he'd been celebrating the death of Duke Roger; 'Fingers keeps his parties on a schedule.

It's only been three weeks since Alanna's been revealed as a girl to the world. It feels like longer.

It's only been two weeks since Master Si-Cham dragged a reluctant Thom of Trebond down to Corus to face his father. Looking at the silent man sitting stiffly across from him, George thinks that it, too, feels like a lot longer.

The vow of silence Thom took to avoid speaking to his father certainly hasn't stopped him from being expressive - or melodramatic. George suppresses a rather unmanly giggle as he remembers the first time he met Thom, when an irate Mithran monk slammed open the door to the Dove and stalked in to stare down his wayward sister.

Thom raises one eyebrow, pointedly, and George makes an odd sound - some hideous combination of a squeak and a hiss - as he ruthlessly suppresses his laughter.

He doesn't really know what's gotten into him tonight.

He can hear Thom fidgeting, a nervous habit Alanna rarely shows.

He knows exactly what's gotten into him tonight: three tankards too many, after Stefan sent down the most recent palace gossip - Alanna is officially being courted by that Tirragen knight, the one she'd been so suspicious of not that long ago.

George knows Alanna well enough, by now. That would never have risen anywhere close to the level of actual courting if she didn't want it to.

George closes his eyes, and hears Thom shift. Thom's breathing is a touch rapid, a touch nervous - George makes Thom nervous, and George really doesn't want to think about why.

…Dammit. It's not like it matters much, anymore, his objection, but George does not toy with people, and he thinks he might be weary of Trebonds.

Then again, some small portion of his brain throws up, it's not like he's still pursuing Alanna anymore. Alanna has made her choice, and George is a free man.

But Thom is finicky and fidgety and even more prickly than his sister - which, George thinks, is something of an accomplishment - and George pays attention to details, which is how he knows that he is Thom's first crush, and George does not toy with people. He barely knows this young man.

He does not toy with people, no matter how much he may want to.

Thom huffs a sigh, and George represses another giggle as he thinks that for all Thom has taken a vow of silence, he is still eloquently noisy. He just doesn't use words anymore.

A hand yanks George's head up and around, and George almost goes for his knife before he registers the impatient tapping of Thom's heel on the chair leg, and he opens his eyes to see violet eyes, as violet as Alanna's, staring him down.

Those eyes are too knowing. George wonders, idly, what Thom has seen in the dark and lonely cloisters to make him so world-weary, so cynical.

George no longer really cares. If Thom knows what he's getting into…

No. George does not toy with people, and the fact that Thom doesn't expect anything from him only makes George feel vaguely ashamed.

Fingers lightly touch George's parted lips, silencing the protest before George gets a sound out. Thom leans close, and what he does next startles George immensely.

"I've learned to take what I can get, King of Thieves," Thom whispers, voice creaky with disuse, and George is left wondering how big a burden that vow was in the first place, because from the sound of it Thom hasn't spoken for far longer than he's been sworn to silence. "When you feel up to it, come and steal me."

Thom pushes George back in his seat and leans close, close enough to kiss, close enough that George swears he can hear the younger man's heartbeat, but all Thom does is smirk at him and back off.

George sits, stunned, as the prickly monk leaves; he hears more than sees the young man blow him a cheeky kiss. The door creaks open, then shuts with a light click, and George hears the slow patter of footsteps down the stairs, and the roar of 'Fingers greeting another potential drinking partner.

He hears the door to the inn open, and hears Thom huff a laugh, and hears the wind bang the door closed.

He doesn't need to watch Thom leave. He knows from the sound of the firm footsteps that Thom will be back.

When you feel up to it, come and steal me.

Eventually, George will.


Nov. 26th, 2010 01:26 am
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
If there is one vice Shinkokami has, it is this: she likes to watch people.

She is a master at watching without seeming to - though, she thinks, more bitterly than is her wont, these Easterners mostly see her only as a pretty Yamani doll anyway. She could probably get away with openly staring, with none the wiser.

So Shinko watches.

Shinko watches, and sees the look on the famed Lioness' eldest's face when his mother cannot bear to look at him. The look on his face is the betrayed look of a child trying to please someone he knows he cannot, and though Shinko does not know him, something fractures in her heart.

Shinko watches the lanky redhead, whose name, she learns from Roald, is Thom, and watches as he hides the flickers of his Gift, a deep, pure amethyst, from his mother and his mother's friends, as if it is something shameful, yet something he cannot help but use.

Shinko is entirely unsurprised when Roald tells her Thom almost never leaves his room at the university, that he has a horrible habit of switching his course of study right before he is due for mastery in the previous one. She does not know Thom at all, though she wishes she did, since he is her fiance's oldest friend, and Roald speaks of him with nothing but genuine affection and sad respect.

Shinko watches, which is how she knows this Thom is broken, and has been since the first time his Gift flickered to bright purple life around him and his mother began to avoid him. Shinko watches, which is how she knows that Roald is deeply in love with his redheaded friend.

Shinko watches, watches as Roald leans just a bit too close to Thom when Thom speaks, watches as Thom makes the occasional shy appearance at a party, all at Roald's behest, all for Roald, and that couldn't be plainer. Shinko wonders, idly, how no one else ever seems to notice, how only she seems to see that Roald takes any opportunity propriety grants him to touch Thom, how Thom, in turn, only ever looks up at Roald, only ever speaks more than necessary pleasantries to Roald, only ever is seen if Roald is there to bring him out of his awkward shell.

Then Shinko sees Queen Thayet, one day, and realizes the Queen is watching too, but whereas Shinko watches with nonjudgemental curiosity, Thayet's eyes are narrow and hard.

Shinko watches, which is how she knows Roald knows his mother watches him suspiciously, and watches Thom with suspicion that borders on anger, and Roald knows secret paths to the university, and enough magic to not get caught.

Shinko does not know magic, does not have ways to avoid detection by mages, so Shinko does not watch Roald when he is at the university. She stays, instead, attendant on the Queen, diverting Thayet with Thayet's own graciousness.

But once, when Roald is back at Corus, finally, for the wedding, and the Queen - and, indeed, the whole Court - is wrapped up in the preparations, Thom stays the night at the palace.

And Shinko watches.

She watches through the crack of the door, thankful that the palace is still largely empty of people so that there is no one to see her and grow suspicious. She watches the two men inside, one the handsome prince she has learned to love, one the gawky, nervous almost-mage she wishes she could, and she watches as they move closer, Thom shy and awkward in his shyness, Roald calm and steady and therefore bold. Roald's grace turns Thom's lack of coordination into a gentle dance, and as the two men kiss, as tentative as if they have not been lovers for years, years before Shinko ever heard of Roald, Shinko thinks that Thom in this intimacy has gained a sort of grace after all, that loving and being loved has made the awkward duckling beautiful.

Roald gently divests Thom of his clothing, and through eloquent silence persuades his lover to return the favor, smiling at Thom with more passion than he has ever graced Shinko with when Thom's fingers hesitantly tug at Roald's tunic. Roald, Shinko sees, is a patient lover, considerate and reassuring and gently prompting, but never pushing, never forcing, even though it must be frustrating, dealing with a longtime lover who is still so nervous.

Shinko is oddly reassured, herself. She is glad at times like this that she watches people, because her upcoming wedding does not seem so very terrifying, now.

Shinko watches as Roald kisses Thom deeply, as Thom wraps himself around Roald as Roald lowers them both to the bed, and Thom looks up and sees her, and freezes.

And Shinko curses herself, because of course if she can see in through the gap, something of herself - a color of her dress that is decidedly not stone, a glimmer of her eye, perhaps - would be visible to anyone in the room who cared to look. And Thom's father is the real spymaster of Tortall, and even if Thom is not so inclined to tricks he undoubtedly knows all the ones Shinko does, and now Thom's hesitance is back full-force, deep shame and desperate love twisting his expression, and Shinko has ruined their beautiful moment.

Shinko does the only thing she can think of: she bobs an awkward Eastern curtsey and bows her head, hoping something of her meaning can convey itself to Thom and her love and his lover can rescue their night, and scurries off.

Later, when they are married, Shinko still watches. She watches Roald's reflection in her mirror the morning after their wedding, as she pins up her hair. Roald is watching her, and there is honest affection in his eyes, for which Shinko is thankful, because he could have hated her for taking him from his lover, for being a duty.

"In Yaman, there is no shame in taking a lover, as long as one does one's duty by one's wife," Shinko says at last, watching Roald's face.

He freezes, and blushes, and she meets his eyes in the mirror, and when he bows deeply to her in Yamani style, she knows he understands her meaning.

Shinko watches, and watching gives her power. She can ruin Roald, can destroy Thom, with a whispered word of what she sees; that is power enough for her.

But Shinko has grace and graciousness of her own, and she will never use it.
zodiacal_light: AU: Because everything's better with zombies. (AU)
"What is this?" Thom asked, poking the stuff in the bowl with his spoon.

"Soup," said Numair, giving Thom a funny look. "Good soup," he added when Thom glanced at him.

Thom looked at the bowl. Gingerly, he stirred the liquid, watching as even more random unidentifiable bits rose to the surface. It didn't look like any soup he'd ever had; it looked, rather, like someone had run mad in a vegetable garden.


Numair only seemed to be able to cook three things: soup, which never looked like any normal soup; rice, which was never just rice; and these weird little meat things wrapped in flatbread. None of them ever turned out the same way twice.

Of course, that wasn't all Numair ever brought him. Frequently, he'd show up in Thom's office with a barely-cooling bundle of something from one of Legann's food stands - a turnover, maybe, or dumplings, or a cup of yet more soup held gingerly in long fingers, or whatever new food Numair'd seen that he'd wanted Thom to try, bustling in all excited like a child with a clever treasure. Sometimes, he'd crash into Thom's office at a rush, somewhat late and a bit disheveled, sheepishly setting down a plate of something clearly swiped from the palace kitchens or whatever lunch he'd been forced to attend.

At first, these midday interruptions had annoyed Thom, as much for what they implied as the interruptions themselves. He was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, he'd finally ranted one day to his sister, he didn't need the court's newest darling mage taking pity on him. Alanna had raised one pointed eyebrow, for once not yelling back, and said tartly that maybe if he didn't consistently skip lunch people wouldn't feel so inclined to feed him.

It wasn't until a day four years later, when Numair actually failed to stop by, that Thom realized he'd gotten used to the mage's noontime interruptions whenever they were both at Legann. But then Daine scrambled in, bright and cheerful and completely out of breath, and set a bundle smack in the center of Thom's desk.

"There," she'd said, absently tucking a flyaway curl behind her ear. "Numair said to give that to you, and to say he's sorry he couldn't drop by himself, but some idiot student - not me! - just blew up his classroom."

A heaviness Thom hadn't noticed until then fizzled away, and he opened the bundle.

"Those're fish pasties," Daine said, pointing. "I taught him my ma's recipe. Oh, almost forgot." She leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Thom's cheek, grinning. "That's also from Numair, even if he didn't say it."

She skipped out of the room, leaving an utterly flabbergasted Thom and two cooling pasties behind.


Thom caved to Numair's expectant gaze like he always did, and gingerly tasted the soup. "It's good," he pronounced finally. Better than Alanna's cooking, he didn't add. That was a low hurdle to jump.

Numair's wide smile, sudden and brilliant as the sun through rainclouds, warmed Thom more than the soup did.
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Jon really should've known better than to send her on this trip.

"I am somewhat surprised that the famed Lioness has so little to say," he'd said from behind her, and she'd caught a faint whiff of cinnamon and blushed. "Your outspokenness is legend, even here in Carthak, Sir Alanna."

She had bitten back her instinctive sharp response, and found herself tongue-tied.

The Emperor simply smiled. "Perhaps you would be more comfortable speaking out in private," he said, practically oozing consideration. "Shall we?"

Alanna was many things, but she was not a fool. She knew exactly what a private conference with the Emperor meant.

She followed him anyway.

He was weirdly, almost disturbingly, more attentive than any of her other lovers. He did not so much as loosen a tie on his clothes until after he had her utterly naked in his bed, trembling at every expert touch of his fingers.

"So even the great Lioness is only a woman in bed," he said, voice as cool as his amber eyes, and only the fact that she was too exhausted to move kept him from getting punched. She scowled at him anyway, and he laughed.

That had been the first night, and the next morning, when the diplomatic conference went better than anticipated, she knew it was only partly because of Daine.

The second night, he had been rage, barely tamed. The Stormwing's gift was a sly insult, and everyone knew it; only his iron self-control and knowledge that she had not been the one to offer the insult spared her from his wrath. Only the fact that he wasn't angry at her spared him from hers.

The encounter that night was fierce and bruising, and even more silent than the previous night. This was another kind of war, Alanna thought, and she never ran from a battle.

The next day's conference didn't go so smoothly. Alanna was entirely unsurprised.

The third night, Alanna had still been unsettled from the gods-damned boats. If the Emperor had been unsettled by the walking statue, he'd reacted by turning even more self-assured than before.

"How did you like my fleet?" he asked, leaning over her.

There was no polite answer she could give, and he knew it. She wondered distantly, as his hands traveled confidently over her body, if she'd already lost.

The next day, the conference was still stalled. That night, there were rats, and an impromptu execution, and Alanna was no stranger to omens and portents, and knew in her bones that Carthak was teetering on collapse.

"You've already lost," she said that night, hand rising to touch her ember.

"What makes you think that?" the Emperor said, almost a snarl, as he shoved her back onto the bed.

She said nothing, only smiled. Inside, though, was a ball of worry that wouldn't leave.

She was no stranger to plots and schemes, either. The next day, when Daine was missing and the Emperor stood and accused her of treason and threw them all out of Carthak, and shot one smug, knowing glance at Numair, Alanna couldn't have been less surprised. She was certainly expecting it when Numair refused to leave.

She was a little disappointed, later, that she hadn't had a hand in bringing this villain down. It left things … unfinished, she mused, fingering her ember again and thinking of shades of red and yellow.

Yes, Jon really should've known better than to send her on this trip, Alanna thought.

Then again, he'd never known about Roger.

Two Notes

Nov. 26th, 2010 01:19 am
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
It was his curse, Duke Gareth supposed, to be so old and yet outliving so many. He stood leaning on his cane, his son hovering by his shoulder and his wife a solid pillar behind him, watching as the pyre repeatedly failed to light in the damp.

It wasn't even a proper rain, Gareth thought numbly, his fingers cold on his cane. If it wasn't going to be ironically sunny, it should at least be a proper rain.

It was Numair who finally lit the pyre - with his Gift, consuming the whole thing within moments, and no one mentioned it, just like no one mentioned how peculiarly angry he looked at the stubborn tinder. Daine pulled him back before the magic-fueled fire could burn him, too.

They had put enough together about Lindhall Reed's background to figure out the man was Scanran, coy not-quite-protestations to the contrary. Thus, the funeral pyre, as close to accurate as they could manage, here in the warm south.

He wondered if they could manage to track down Lindhall's clan; that axe, the mage had said, had been passed down in his family for generations. It ought to be returned to them. They would be wondering about their son. They had been wondering about him for decades.

…That axe. That blasted axe, that had been gripped tightly in Lindhall's hands when the man died. Right now, it was off being cleaned and repaired; Gareth would not see anything of Lindhall's in less than perfect condition. Not now.

Roanna's hand clasped his shoulder briefly; she gave him a sympathetic smile, and Gareth realized he was crying. He knew his affair with the mage had been no secret; Lindhall had had no discretion (except that necessary to be a Scanran raider hiding right under the Tortallan king's nose, and that necessary to run an underground highway for escaped slaves, and that necessary to help a young Arram Draper flee Carthak's wrath) and Gary had not exactly been quiet when he'd discovered his father's newest relationship. But Roanna had always understood, had understood before Gareth had, and had, in fact, been the one to give him the courage to engage in the affair at all.

She had always known him well, which was why he was only mildly surprised when she steered him away from the funeral, back to his rooms, over to his desk where a familiar Scanran war axe rested, cleaned of blood and honed to perfect sharpness.

"It came back today," Roanna said, at his glance. "Your mage told me he wanted you to have it."

She left him, then, alone to his tears. He ran his fingers gingerly along the blade, remembering all too well how easily it could cut flesh and sever bone. It had taken his finger, long ago, before Lindhall was Lindhall. It had taken the lives of a number of the attackers who'd laid siege to the palace, not a week ago.

Gareth smiled faintly. They must've had the surprise of their life, when they'd broken into the mages' wing with Gift-repressing charms and found not a helpless group of gawky sorcerers, but a beyond-angry Scanran raider swinging an axe at their heads and verging on battle madness.

Whatever Lindhall had said about lacking practice, he'd lost none of his skill. It had taken two mages and a lot of anti-Gift charms to bring him down.

He squinted through blurry eyes at the surface of his desk. There was a small piece of paper pinned under the axe haft.

Throat dry as the Southern Desert, Gareth pulled it out.

I don't have any children, so you might as well pass this on to yours when I die.

Thank your wife for me; Her Grace offered to ensure you got this if I do die first.

Told you you're immortal,

Eirik Ludviksra

The name was unfamiliar, but that didn't matter, Gareth thought, because the note was typical Lindhall. He smoothed it out gently, wrinkled hands trembling, then ran his hand again along the axe.

He couldn't wait to see the look on Gary's face when he told him about this, Gareth thought, and wept.


Lindhall did not go to the funeral. He found Tortallan burials bizarre and faintly distasteful, even after so many years in Tortall, and while Duchess Roanna had extended an invitation, Lindhall was not so clueless as to think her son entirely approved. And Lindhall was not the type of person to intrude on others' grief.

Besides, he'd been there when Duke Gareth - the former, not the current - had died. He had, in fact, been the only one there. He didn't need any closure.

So Lindhall Reed sat in his locked classroom. He'd fed the iguanas, and the turtle, despite the fact that he was faintly sure he'd already fed them, and he was now sitting perched on the edge of his chair, a quill dripping red ink in one hand and a half-empty bottle of hard Scanran liquor in the other, and a stack of absolutely abysmal essays in front of him.

He took a swig from the bottle, relishing the harsh, familiar-but-long-forgotten burn and wondering where in the world young Nealan had managed to get it. It didn't matter; the burn was welcome, as was the dizzy fog taking up the space his brain once occupied. The world was going nicely gray around the edges; unfortunately, he could still read the essays stacked before him.

They were really, unforgivably bad, Lindhall thought viciously, scrawling comments along the margins. For good measure, he doodled some illustrations of what he wanted to do to the idiot who'd written it across the top; it made an excellent warning, he thought, and the drawings weren't half bad, either. That one actually looked like a person being shoved unceremoniously off the Needle.

"You know, giving that to young Jesslaw may not be the wisest thing to do," came a dry voice from behind him.

Lindhall spun, the world rocking unsteadily, and nearly followed Gareth's example and had a heart attack. Gary - Lindhall would always think of him as Gary, even if he was the new Duke - stood behind him, hands in his pockets, red-rimmed eyes still managing to glint in amusement.

"Even if he is as much of a hellion as his father," Gary finished, smirking faintly as Lindhall stared.

Lindhall looked at his classroom door. It was wide open. "I thought I locked that," he said uncertainly.

"You did," Gary said, in a good approximation of his usual cheer. "I picked the lock. Father taught me," he added at the older man's look, and Lindhall had to give him credit: his voice barely caught.

"Oh," Lindhall said, gesturing loosely to a nearby seat. Gary shook his head, losing his smile. He fidgeted with something in his pocket, then withdrew a paper and handed it to Lindhall.

Lindhall took it, numb. It was only two lines.

I do love you.


And the grief swept down on Lindhall all at once, and he was vaguely aware of Gary backing out of the room and discreetly relocking the door before the liquor bottle hit the wall and the tears came.
zodiacal_light: Humour: Because angst is not jolly. (Default)
Duke Gareth of Naxen was a pragmatic man. He had never believed in the tales some soldiers told, of recognizing former enemies years later, not when the enemies they spoke of were single faces among a whole horde of enemies. Not when those faces had been glimpsed for only moments during the tumult of a battlefield, here and gone again, lost to the turmoil of war, overwhelmed by the feel of a sword in your hand and blood all over and oppressive darkness or too-bright sun and the ground beneath your feet and the blows you gave and the blows you parried, and the many, many other faces you glimpsed for just as long.

Then he was part of a delegation to Carthak, and boarded the imperial galley, and caught a glimpse of the handsome older mage Numair greeted with his usual exuberance.

The man's name was very much not Scanran, and he had obviously been in Carthak for long enough to not only have achieved mastery, but to have taught Numair. There were a thousand things that pointed to him being just who Numair introduced him as, but Gareth knew. Flying in the face of all logic, he knew he'd faced that man down in some godforsaken forest once, knew with a rock-solid certainty that it was that man who'd cost him his finger and his favorite sword.

And when Lindhall Reed looked his way and flinched in surprise, Gareth was sure.


The conference in Carthak went … okay, for a conference with an egomaniacal emperor who managed to simultaneously piss off the gods, Numair Salmalin, and young Veralidaine. Gareth shook his head, leaning on the rail of the ship that would take them back to Tortall. He watched as the other members of the delegation slowly boarded, Numair helping along a still-woozy Daine, talking to…


Okay, yes, Gareth had known that Reed fellow was coming back with them, but he'd still hoped, when they'd returned to round up the mages after their little tantrum in the palace, that the man would give up and just stay. Apparently, Kaddar hadn't been able to bribe him, after all.

Gareth's hand tightened convulsively on the rail, and his son shot him a worried look. He sent Gary a reassuring smile, but Gary's eyes just narrowed, and Gareth silently cursed the gods for giving him a son as canny as his mother.

The newest member of their party gave Gareth a nervous bow, then practically skittered away, adjusting the straps of…

… That was not a Scanran war axe. Gareth blinked. Well, it might be; the mage certainly had the build to wield one. He turned to verify his initial impression, but the mage had, with remarkable speed, already gone belowdecks.


Gareth had, often, wanted to tan his nephew's hide, especially after some of Jonathan's childhood antics. But his nephew - and king, he forcibly reminded himself - had never come so close to provoking a rage as he had today.

"I'm sorry?" Gareth said, pinning Jonathan with his most piercing glare.

Jonathan exchanged a worried glance with Gary. "I said, Master Reed's offered to help us with the Royal University. He has also agreed to assist in training the pages, and Lord Wyldon has agreed to that as well."

Sometimes, being the uncle of a king had its privileges. Gareth turned and strode from the room without another word.


"Calm down, Gareth," Roanna snapped, stabbing at her embroidery with much more than the necessary force. "You don't even know for sure it's the same man!"

Gareth was in his rooms, pacing back and forth as dramatically as he could with a cane. He hmpfed.

"Besides, it's not like you hate him."

"I damn well do hate him, Roanna!" Gareth snapped in turn.

Roanna snorted, an unladylike habit she'd taken to expressive heights over the years. "I've seen you watching him."

"He's a Scanran raider!"

"Ex-Scanran raider, dearest," she said, and oh, she was really warming up to her argument if she was whipping out the endearments. "That was over thirty years ago."

"He cut off my finger!" Gareth said, waving his scarred hand in her direction.

"You and your excuses," Roanna said. She set aside her embroidery and rose, and Gareth flinched back at the dangerous look in her eyes.

"Come," she said, one hand clamping around his arm. "We are going to settle things once and for all."


Lindhall Reed was more than a little alarmed when the door to his classroom banged open, and the terrifying duchess of Naxen strode in, dragging her husband behind her.

Damn. He couldn't make it to his axe in time.

"Now look here," she said, sticking a finger in Lindhall's face. "My husband has been making eyes at you since Carthak," - There was a noise of protest from the Duke, but a glare from the Duchess quelled it - "and I am fed up with him not doing anything about it. Therefore, I am leaving him in here, with you, and barring the door. I do not expect to see either of you for at least an hour."

With that, the Duchess unceremoniously shoved her husband into one of the students' seats, then strode to the door, before pausing and looking over her shoulder at Lindhall, raising one imperious eyebrow. "You don't have a class today, do you?"

It took Lindhall a moment to work up the nerve to respond. "Not this afternoon, no," he replied, mouth dry. He did not want to know what she'd do if he said yes.

"Good," the Duchess replied, closing the door firmly.

They listened in silence to the sounds of scraping, dull thuds, and the faint echo of the Duchess' imperious voice issuing orders to whatever unlucky fellows she'd roped into this.

Lindhall patted Bonedancer nervously, trying to ignore the man across from him.

Duke Gareth, for his part, was glaring ferociously at the other man, trying to put his wife's insinuations out of his head. He was not ogling the man; Roanna had been spending too much time with the flighty court gossips. Never mind that she was sharper than any person he'd ever met, and usually knew what he was feeling before he did. No, she was entirely mistaken.

A small clack from Bone caused Lindhall to turn just in time to see the Duke's eyes flicker down, then back up. The Duke caught his gaze, slightly startled, then cleared his throat and turned away, folding his hands over his cane, but not before Lindhall saw a faint blush touch his cheeks.

…So, maybe the Duchess had a point. At Bone's impatient tug, Lindhall rose and slowly approached the Duke, who turned steadily redder and redder. Lindhall, completely unaware of the seductive smirk curling across his own face, leaned casually against the table next to the other man.

"We seem to be stuck here, Your Grace," he said.

Duke Gareth muttered something incomprehensible and likely uncomplimentary about his wife. Lindhall, prompted by some hidden boldness, placed two fingers under the Duke's chin and gently tipped his head back.

Lindhall looked into the other man's lust-darkened eyes and grinned. "Maybe we should find some way to spend the time," he suggested, startled at the huskiness of his own voice.

The Duke paused for a long moment, considering, then hooked his cane around Lindhall's leg and yanked him forward.

Somewhere on the desk behind them, Bonedancer clattered happily. It was about time.


Outside the door, Roanna of Naxen grinned an entirely unladylike and unrepentant grin, and went off to divert anyone who might come looking for her husband or his mage.


Nov. 26th, 2010 01:11 am
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
"You're the spitting image of another Alan I knew once, you know," Raoul said.

Alan raised one pointed blond eyebrow.

"Superficial things," Raoul sniffed.


"You've got your namesake's temper," Raoul said, watching as Wolset staggered off to get his nose healed.

Alan glared at him, massaging his hand.

"Now that I think of it, you fight the same, too." Raoul grinned. "I guess that shouldn't be so surprising. You had the same teacher."


"You're not the master of the sword that Alan was, that's for sure," Raoul mocked, circling his squire.

Alan dodged his next blow, pivoting smoothly and sliding up under Raoul's guard. "No, but I am faster."

The grin on his face was pure wicked and utterly Alan.


"How's your wrestling?" Raoul asked. "That was always Alan's weak point."

Alan quirked an eyebrow, eyes amused. "I'm not my mother."

Raoul's pause lasted less than a breath, but a flash of something through hazel eyes let him know it had been noted.


"Not all of us are lucky enough to be god-touched," Alan snapped.

Raoul bristled. "Alan worked curst hard to be as good as he was. He wasn't god-touched, either."

Alan's eyebrows ascended towards his hairline, and Raoul turned away, biting his tongue.


"You always speak of Ma as if she's dead."

Raoul scrubbed a hand over his face. "Alan died in front of the whole court, killed by Duke Roger. Alanna is someone completely different."

Later, it would occur to Raoul that Alan's hazel eyes had been too steady.


"I thought you'd stopped drinking." There was no accusation in his squire's voice, just a concerned question, carefully hidden.

Raoul tilted the glass, watching the gold glints the light threw across the liquor. "I still haven't had a sip," he replied finally.

Alan gently but firmly pried the glass from his knight-master's grip, and tossed it out.


"You love my mother," Alan said, his eyes both too old and too young.

"No," Raoul sighed. "I loved the man I thought she was."


"You're my squire."

"I'm also eighteen."

When Raoul reached out to brush a lock of blond hair out of Alan's face, Alan's eyes were far too knowing.


"We shouldn't do this. I shouldn't do this," Raoul said desperately.

Alan glared. "That's a fine thing to say when you've got your hand down my breeches."

Raoul was silent.

"Besides, you need this." It was the simple truth in that statement that finally caused Raoul to move.


"Your mother will kill me," Raoul said, staring down into his squire's face.

"That's not who you're thinking about," Alan said. "Now shut up and kiss me."


It was never his name, Alan knew, that Raoul whispered in the dark, even if they sounded the same.


"It's time to head back to Corus," Raoul said nearly four years later.

Alan shifted, settling back against Raoul's chest. "I'm not going to turn into someone else, you know."

Raoul flinched, and looked away.


"You were never anything but a substitute," Raoul hissed, hands locked around Alan's throat, pinning Alan to the cold stone wall with all his considerable strength.

I already know this, Alan thought, bored, and the Chamber let him go.


None of this was ever real, Raoul thinks.

"It is real enough," Alan says.

And it is.
zodiacal_light: AU: Because everything's better with zombies. (AU)
It was during yet another ball when Delia's suspicions took on a new twist. She was dancing, yet again, with Squire Alan, who was, yet again, looking horribly uncomfortable, and Delia was almost at the point of throwing propriety to the wind and informing the stiff redhead that nobody really cared if he preferred men, when her dance partner stumbled slightly and Delia's hand crashed into Alan's ribs.

Blushing, Alan recovered his balance and escorted Delia over to her waiting knot of admirers, but not before Delia got a very good feel of something decidedly not a silk tunic or linen shirt through the young man's clothes.

There was only one real reason that Delia could think of that someone would need a corset when dressed as a man.

Squire Alan was female.


Delia spent the next several social events watching Alan. The squire's notorious shyness made perfect sense now; she most likely did prefer men, but it wasn't quite as transgressive a thing as Delia had originally assumed.

No, Squire Alan was transgressive in other ways.

Squire Alan, Delia noted, also had a very obvious crush on the Prince. She wondered that no one seemed to notice that, but then she noticed Alan giving her another poisonous glare, and noticed one short, somewhat scruffy knight watching Alan thoughtfully.

…Clearly, Alan hadn't managed to fool everyone.

But just as clearly, Delia thought, observing the people around her with long-practiced subtlety, Alan had fooled enough people.

Delia could admire that, in a girl.


It was pretty obvious that the Prince knew his squire was a girl, and it was just as obvious that he had a wicked sense of humor - he insisted on making Alan dance with all the women at each ball.

Delia hid another snicker and watched a red-faced Alan squirm out of yet another admirer's arms; the social climbers had clearly started to swarm around the Prince's squire.

Delia watched the Prince drag a mulish Alan over to still another lady through narrowed eyes.

She walked over and tapped Alan on the shoulder. Alan spun, alarmed, and Delia neatly cut in, pulling the shorter girl into a dance.

"Relax," Delia muttered, when they spun too close to the musicians for anyone to hear. "People get suspicious when you're that stiff."

Wide purple eyes met Delia's green ones, filled with alarm.

"We need to talk," Delia added, and Alan swallowed and nodded.


It had taken nothing at all to get Squire Alan alone; Delia had simply chosen Alan as her escort back to her rooms. The Prince's eyes had narrowed - in suspicion or in fear for his friend's secret, Delia couldn't tell - but the others had simply tittered or looked jealous.

Alan was silent, full of skittish energy. It was a long walk through the palace.

Finally, they arrived at the door to Delia's quarters, and Delia waved Alan inside. She stared at the shorter redhead for a long moment, watching Alan rally and defiantly stare back.

"I know you're a girl," Delia said finally.

Alan flinched. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Delia raised a hand. "Don't. You're a terrible liar."

Alan just stared back, face bone-white, lips compressed.

Delia sighed. "I'm not going to tell anyone." She toed off her shoes; the blasted things pinched after a while.

"Why not?" Alan asked sharply.

"Because I don't want to?" Delia said, moving around to her vanity. She began to unlace her dress, watching Alan in the mirror.

The other woman shied back and looked away, face flushing, as Delia's dress slid off her shoulders.

Now this was interesting. Maybe Alan's nervousness wasn't entirely about her secret, after all, or not the secret Delia had figured out. Delia turned to face Alan, letting her dress pool at her feet.

"Squire Alan, look at me," Delia said.

Alan did, but her violet eyes darted down to look at Delia's bare shoulders and chest, at her stocking-clad legs. Blushing even redder, Alan forced her chin up and looked Delia defiantly in the eyes.

Delia came closer, slowly, giving Alan plenty of time to back away. Alan, rigid, never moved. Delia pressed lightly up against the stiff squire, and huffed a laugh as Alan jerked slightly at the pressure of Delia's breasts.

Delia placed her hands on Alan's shoulders. "It's okay, Alan, or whatever your name really is," she whispered intimately into Alan's ear.

When Delia kissed the other girl, Alan jerked away, finally regaining her mobility.

But she couldn't take her eyes off of Delia.

Delia smiled - an honest smile, not a courtly one - and simply stood there, letting Alan look. "Come here," she said softly, and, blushing fiercely, almost reluctantly, Alan did.

This time, when Delia kissed her, Alan didn't move away. She did start when Delia slipped off her tunic, wrapping her arms around her chest before Delia could remove the shirt, too.

"It's okay," Delia said again.

Alan stared at her for a long moment, and then finally, slowly, tentatively, nodded. With a nervous fidget of the hem and defiant speed, the squire pulled her shirt off. She moved to undo the laces of her special corset.

"Let me," Delia said, catching the other girl's hands. Startled violet eyes met hers, then Alan nodded.

Delia slowly set to work on the laces, punctuating her progress with soft kisses and light caresses on the young woman's slowly exposed flesh. She was almost to the end when the other woman grabbed her, redirecting her attention upwards.

"My name is Alanna," the squire said, almost fiercely. Violet eyes blazed. "And if you tell anyone…"

Delia silenced her with a hard kiss. "I told you, I won't tell. I like a girl who causes a scandal."

This time, Alanna returned the kiss enthusiastically.


zodiacal_light: Humour: Because angst is not jolly. (Default)

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