Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 018

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 018

The numbness was strange, almost worrying.

Fritz wailed over Tommy's chest. Mack felled a pine sapling with one stroke of his claymore, screaming out in rage. Cakes turned away, sank to his knees beside his nickelhorse, and wept into a snowbank. Even Tommy's great brontosword hung its head and tried to sniff at his boots.

Wanda only stepped backward and looked up at the snowy tree-tops for a moment, drawing in a deep breath. The cold air was a blade to her lungs. She turned to the nearest knight, who was staring slack-jawed at his fallen leader.

"Encamp," she ordered, snapping his attention to her. "Give priority to my own tent. Pitch it where the Chief has fallen."

Fritz would not leave Tommy's side at first, but Wanda managed to get him to his feet. "There is a war to fight. Stand up. Stand up, Warlord!" He was her superior officer by level, but she said it with the force of an order anyway, and he complied. She took the silk top hat from where it had been folded inside Tommy's coat, and handed it to him. "Get instructions from Father," she said. "He may want to make you Chief."

"Yes Lady," Fritz managed hoarsely.

Wanda assisted with the raising of the tent, then ordered all units away from it. Under the canvas, she rolled out her bedroll on the bare snow. With a drag of his boots and a big heave by the armpits, she laid his body to rest upon it. His face was swollen, his eyelids and bluish lips were closed, but his expression was one of peace.

Peace.

Sitting on the edge of the camp stool, she brushed the snow from the sleeves of his coat, removed her glove and touched his icy cheek with the back of her hand. No wounds was her first thought.

The first thing to determine in uncroaking a body is what took its life, because that was where the most repair and attention would likely be needed. Attention was the key. A simple or a mass uncroaking took no more attention than lighting a candle, with the Matter of the body representing the candle wax. The body would move as it could, and take simple orders until its fuel was exhausted a few turns later.

But the craft of the Croakamancer was to understand the body's condition, its functions, its strengths and weaknesses. The Croakamancer could conserve the fuel of the body by focusing her juice upon the mechanisms of its movement, repairing and augmenting them with magic. An expertly uncroaked unit could function almost as well as it had when alive, and last for perhaps dozens of turns.

So. If this body had no wounds, then what croaked it? Sensing her way through the architecture of his insides, she could not immediately say. Something about the muscles was familiar, though. She had uncroaked the victims of critical hits before. A crit to the head would cause the muscles to seize at croaking. But one to the heart left the muscles starved out, relaxed and unable to contract. Tommy's were like that.

So she focused on his heart. She tried to make it beat once, and knew something was wrong. One tells a muscle to move by means of the nerves, and reconnecting nerves by magic was one of the trickier parts of an attentive uncroaking.

There were almost no functioning nerves in Tommy's heart. Or...his stomach, or most of the rest of his internal organs. He probably had not been in pain, but he must have known something was very wrong.

She had never seen one before, and she did not understand how it worked, but this was certainly a poisoning. And poisons, both natural and magical, were Flower Power.

Wanda sat up straight on the stool. "I make you no promises about the future," Olive had said. That would have voided her pinky swear not to poison him, wouldn't it? She'd also asked him to kiss her. So she did not initiate an engagement in the city.

He'd done it; he'd kissed her. He trusted her.

Because he loved her, which was probably her doing as well.

Wanda removed her other glove. It was bitterly cold inside the tent, with no fire, and bare snow still beneath her boots. But that was not the reason for her numbness. She could not say why she was not crying for Tommy, but it troubled her. She worried that tears might never come. What would that mean?

"Stupid," she whispered to him. "How could you fall for that?" Tommy's peaceful face was perfectly still. There was unthawed snow in his beard.

But the words sounded hollow to her, because one thing Wanda understood about her own heart was exactly how someone could fall for Olive. She put her hands into the pockets of the suit. Olive must have recognized her raiment, but she never remarked on it. What was this woman? What kind of a monster fights with peace?

Wanda didn't understand. But she realized that it was her job to. In her mind, she saw the Mirror Wanda saying, "You couldn't protect him, because you don't know your magicks. What a terrific Chief Caster. You didn't know what you were up against. Did you? He trusted you, too!"

She reached out and took his cold hand, placed her other hand over his face, and began to cast. No, she did not know enough. She'd waved away Delphie's Predictions. Her eyes had glazed over at Clay's explanations of Luckamancy. And she hadn't seen Hippiemancy as anything but the magic of harmless perversion.

That would change, starting now, starting with this uncroaking. Tommy's body deserved her very best work. She would try Rhyme-o-mancy, the way Olive had used it.

A poetic incantation could settle the mind, focus any caster on their work. Even warlords could use Rhymes in leadership, for morale and focus, and in dance fighting. Those bawdy trail songs of Tommy's were crude, but effective on the units under his command. Her singing along with the knights had likely helped her spot that scout on her first day. Songs and poems held great and mysterious power.

But to use Rhyme-o-mancy in casting, it must be quick and clever, and it must rhyme. If she flubbed the rhyme, the spell would weaken or fail completely. She had yet to try to put two lines together, but she was already casting. It was now or never. She incanted:

Skin, to muscle, to sinew, to bone.

My brother-protector, you've left me alone.

Naughtymance, bodymance, fleshmistress, I

Take this gift you've bequeathed me, in place of good-bye.

The attention of an entire day was collapsed into those few seconds. Wanda reconstructed, reconnected, and reanimated everything inside Tommy's body, undoing all of what Olive's life-draining poison had done to him. He was a huge, strong man. He was a warlord. He would stand again, and fight against the side that had taken his life.

After hours of subjective effort, she felt her work coalesce in him. He was a unit, the most powerful she had ever raised up. The spell faded. She became aware of the tent again, and the cold.

"Stand up," she said. The unit opened its eyes, and obeyed her order. She had never made one so beautifully preserved. The bloating in his face faded, as some slow circulation of the blood was possible in this one. She was overjoyed at the results. Almost everything a living unit could do, this one could...

And then, like the tent coming back into her view, so did Tommy.

This was her brother. Her brother. This was Tommy!

And it was not. Tommy was gone.

She looked at the unit's face, feeling her own grow hot. "Tommy..." Her voice sounded strange. "Put... Put your arms around me."

The beautiful, triumphantly perfect uncroaked unit followed her order. His arms, like tree branches, encircled Wanda. His barrel chest was ice cold at first. But soon it was warm and wet with tears she that worried might never stop.

image

Recent posts... (See full thread)
splintermute wrote:
Poisoning doesn't operate like that - regardless of where you're observing from, you'd see the poisoning, then some form of time delay, then Tommy croaking, which seems to make it an unusual, perhaps unique, mechanic in Erfworld, unless it was somehow tied to a non-temporal factor, such as move.

Maybe the turn ended? It wasn't mentioned in the text, but nor was the loss of Tommy's bonus.

Zeku wrote:
We've seen how heavily Erfworld (or the author) resists specific stratification of abilities or powers.

Turnamancy involved both the passage of turns, and the act of "turning" as it relates to your loyalty, two subjects that are utterly unrelated. It makes sense that flower power would have extra meaning also. It seems that it has governance over real flowers.

The craziness here is that the narrative itself could then become a form of diverging, occasionally self-referential magic. The all encompassing nature of stageamancy allows it to alter any truth as long as it adheres to it's own internal truth. Erfworld could be Hat Magic, all the way down.

The passage of turns and the act of turning are related by the word 'turn'. So it is with the magick of flowers. Yet Croakamancy, the magick of death, the magick of Wanda, is so intense in it's focus. It's a one trick pony, she has one thing she can do. No variations on the theme, no death spells, no ghosts, no speaking with the dead, no wraiths or mummies, no summoning of Grim Reapers, just yer bog standard zombies. As of yet I suppose. Could 'little croak' spells be hers?

Raza wrote:
Iunno. Janis has the luxury of relative free will, being a magic kingdom barbarian. As far as we can tell, Olive seemed to have genuinely preferred the peaceful and mutually beneficial solution of her alliance offer - but once that got rejected, Duty kicked in and required her to do what she could to help the fight against an enemy side.

Goodminton's leadership shouldn't have expected differently, and I don't fully see how Duty could've allowed them to reject those alliance offers. Love, again, perhaps.

Her peace offer had no value. It wouldn't have saved Goodminton from Quisling and Frenemy. Unless of course Haffaton is in a position to call off that operation, in which case, haven't they just proven that Alliance with them is worth nothing? Never mind that she left out the 'or die' part. Duty may well be her excuse and in fairness it's a good one, but the flower girl still murdered Tommy, who at that point was about as far from being an immediate danger as troops stationed in Goominton itself were. I'll further note that if Wanda's really done a perfect job of Uncroaking Tommy, the only thing the flower girl accomplished by her foul deed was to make some people who loved him cry.

I'd be shocked if duty ever compelled them to force their people, let alone their ylimaf, into bondage to a foreign Ruler. And given that Wanda only avoided molestation during the parlay thanks to a wall of uncroaked she wouldn't be able to use in self defence as Haffaton's slave...
I would imagine that croakamancy would include guttural animal noises, complaining, and some lawnsports. Based on what we've seen so far, it might also include making things dead, and a 'very strong' personal appreciation for the recently dead.
Whispri wrote:

Raza wrote:
Iunno. Janis has the luxury of relative free will, being a magic kingdom barbarian. As far as we can tell, Olive seemed to have genuinely preferred the peaceful and mutually beneficial solution of her alliance offer - but once that got rejected, Duty kicked in and required her to do what she could to help the fight against an enemy side.

Goodminton's leadership shouldn't have expected differently, and I don't fully see how Duty could've allowed them to reject those alliance offers. Love, again, perhaps.

Her peace offer had no value. It wouldn't have saved Goodminton from Quisling and Frenemy. Unless of course Haffaton is in a position to call off that operation, in which case, haven't they just proven that Alliance with them is worth nothing? Never mind that she left out the 'or die' part. Duty may well be her excuse and in fairness it's a good one, but the flower girl still murdered Tommy, who at that point was about as far from being an immediate danger as troops stationed in Goominton itself were. I'll further note that if Wanda's really done a perfect job of Uncroaking Tommy, the only thing the flower girl accomplished by her foul deed was to make some people who loved him cry.

I'd be shocked if duty ever compelled them to force their people, let alone their ylimaf, into bondage to a foreign Ruler. And given that Wanda only avoided molestation during the parlay thanks to a wall of uncroaked she wouldn't be able to use in self defence as Haffaton's slave...

Meh, don't agree. The peace offer clearly had value as a stand alone event, and even in the larger strategic picture there's much to be said for it: Goodminton could've gotten out of their situation with Quisling and Frenemy by simply paying the explicitly small price of the remainder of their treasury, haggling for a new treaty with a significant penalty clause (which would only be reasonable under those conditions) to prevent repeats, and still recovered more comfortably than we've seen them thus far with their new allies and cities.

Duty compels Erfworlders to send their friends to their deaths or sacrifice their own lives; I'm sure it applies to turning, too. And Wanda wasn't molested, just hit on; she'd be a commander under Haffaton and able to simply order most of the people involved in that to knock it off, with the only possible exception being Larry who we know to be otherwise influencable.
Raza wrote:
And Wanda wasn't molested, just hit on


Man, I hope you're not a supervisor anywhere. The text made it clear that she was repeatedly and involuntarily groped by enemy soldiers, that she was unable to resist due to Olive's spell (which might as well have been a date rape spell in retrospect -- "Just lie there and think of Goodminton"), and could only fight back by summoning a horde of zombie rapists to threaten retaliation.

Right now, I think Flower Power is the most diabolical and disturbing power in Erfworld. I wonder how Parson (who famously thought it terribly inappropriate to take sexual advantage of decrypted Archons accustomed to being treated as sex toys) will react to learning exactly what Janis is capable of.
*shrug*

I'm no fan of that aggressive style of come-ons encouraged by our gender culture, but the distinction between that and molestation is not one you can reasonably decline to make. Erring on the side of condemnation isn't as moral a tendency as it's made out to be.
Raza wrote:
*shrug*

I'm no fan of that aggressive style of come-ons encouraged by our gender culture, but the distinction between that and molestation is not one you can reasonably decline to make. Erring on the side of condemnation isn't as moral a tendency as it's made out to be.


I'm sorry. Am I correct in thinking that you just said repeated attempts to touch breasts or genitals, after it being made absolutely clear that such behaviour is unwelcome, somehow falls into a grey area?
Apparently we're dealing with some sort of perceptual difference here... 'cause the way I read it, those things didn't actually happen.

There was no mention of breasts or genitalia, and the repeats where by different individuals, who couldn't all be expected to be reached by previous rejections - and considering no violence was possibly at the time, we can reasonably assume their aim was to propose consensual sex, and individual hopefuls would've given up after being rejected anyway.

I don't know what your frame of reference is on forward drunk flirtation, but when hands first go up shirts with no previous sign of reciprocation, they generally linger around the stomach or lower back... the only ones noted to be grabbing crotches were Wanda's uncroaked. I'm getting the impression that you're either so far removed from this kind of situation or so eager to alienate yourself from it that your imagination is filling in the blanks left by the text update in the worst way possible.

Grabbing people as a means of flirting is certainly unpleasant; the mark of drunk-stupid guys under the inebriated impression that they're as attractive as they are attractable... but it is not generally malign, and it is not molestation. It's a crude but essentially positive message of attraction, being further distorted on the receiving end by the omnipresent influence of sexually repressive culture. Doing it won't get you laid, but demonizing it will only further escalate cultural polarization and individual oversensitivity.
Raza wrote:
Apparently we're dealing with some sort of perceptual difference here... 'cause the way I read it, those things didn't actually happen.

There was no mention of breasts or genitalia, and the repeats where by different individuals, who couldn't all be expected to be reached by previous rejections - and considering no violence was possibly at the time, we can reasonably assume their aim was to propose consensual sex, and individual hopefuls would've given up after being rejected anyway.

I don't know what your frame of reference is on forward drunk flirtation, but when hands first go up shirts with no previous sign of reciprocation, they generally linger around the stomach or lower back... the only ones noted to be grabbing crotches were Wanda's uncroaked. I'm getting the impression that you're either so far removed from this kind of situation or so eager to alienate yourself from it that your imagination is filling in the blanks left by the text update in the worst way possible.

Grabbing people as a means of flirting is certainly unpleasant; the mark of drunk-stupid guys under the inebriated impression that they're as attractive as they are attractable... but it is not generally malign, and it is not molestation. It's a crude but essentially positive message of attraction, being further distorted on the receiving end by the omnipresent influence of sexually repressive culture. Doing it won't get you laid, but demonizing it will only further escalate cultural polarization and individual oversensitivity.


Well said. Uninvited touching isn't always regarded as a bad thing. If the guy or girl is attracted to the one doing the touching, it's fine. It's when the touching is unwelcome that it becomes a problem. The issue is that the person doing the touching doesn't necessarily know (or is too drunk and/or stupid to perceive) when it will and won't be unwelcome. Sometimes you just have to take your chances. Because of that, in our society it's considered a risky or aggressive move. Even so, it's one that can work out in everyone's favor. There's a difference between a touch and an attack, even in a puritanical society. The difference is often found in the context. This, practically by definition, makes it a gray area.

When a man (or woman) has intentions that aren't of a... Hrm. Honorable? nature in mind, there is a distinct difference in behavior. An attacker moves and acts very differently than someone who's just drunk and stupid. The drunken frat guy who thinks he's God's Gift and can't keep his hands to himself isn't intending to attack people; he's just an idiot. An intentional rapist is very different. Now there is a point where simple stupidity becomes an intent to do harm, and that's where the difference lies. Most stupid people will (eventually) get the message if someone isn't interested. The status of what they do after they get that message (or the point where stupidity becomes criminal) is often determined by a jury of one's peers, either in a court of law or in the court of public opinion. If our drunken frat boy wanders off to another woman, he's an idiot who will get a very bad reputation. If he gets angry and decides that he's going to have what he wants anyway, he's just crossed the line from stupidity to intent to harm and that's a completely different ballgame.

I'm not sure I 100% agree with Raza that the prevention of engagement would stop a 'rape' from happening, it would certainly make one difficult. I very seriously doubt that a like that would allow someone to be held down and sexually assaulted against their will. Sure, flirting (as defined by Raza's 'opening' touches) might be allowed, but at some point an attack is an attack.

Now I'm not saying that putting hands on someone is a good or bad thing. I'm not legitimizing it. That stupid frat boy should keep his hands to himself, and if society is working correctly he will get a reputation for being more than friendly and will be treated as such. But as Raza said, demonizing the behavior doesn't help. It just widens the gap between perception and reality and that is very rarely a good thing. Act on something the way you feel is correct, but for boop's sake, see it for what it is, and not for what you want it to be.
Raza wrote:
Apparently we're dealing with some sort of perceptual difference here... 'cause the way I read it, those things didn't actually happen.


That's fair enough, and that's 90% of our disagreement. But I made sure I reread the section in question a couple of times before I posted, and I'm still confident in my initial assumptions, and that most people would read them the same way.

Raza wrote:

There was no mention of breasts or genitalia,


True. The exact quote is: "putting a hand inside the enemy's shirt" and "put his hands on an unwelcome part of her body"

Now, I'm quite prepared to accept the argument that for the particular character of Wanda "Unwelcome Part" is anything beyond the fingertips, but even if it is the case, what is wrong with respecting that? And if it isn't the case, "Unwelcome Part" means exactly what it would to most members of the population, a supposition that is further bolstered by the nature of Wanda's retaliation.

Raza wrote:

and the repeats where by different individuals, who couldn't all be expected to be reached by previous rejections


Supposition, and not supported by the fact there was a CROWD following her at the end of the night, including Larry who had been with her at the start of the evening.


Raza wrote:

- and considering no violence was possibly at the time, we can reasonably assume their aim was to propose consensual sex, and individual hopefuls would've given up after being rejected anyway.


A *very* interesting question, since it is perfectly possible to commit non-consensual acts without going as far as violence, and Wanda's "retaliatory strike" showed that the unfortunate victims WEREN'T able to extricate themselves except by flight.
I hadn't even considered that particular scenario until you made your point, but I'm now leaning toward the opinion that the situation was even more unpleasant than my initial cursory reading suggested.

Raza wrote:

I don't know what your frame of reference is on forward drunk flirtation, but when hands first go up shirts with no previous sign of reciprocation, they generally linger around the stomach or lower back...


Lol... VERY experienced thank you :-) Which is why I have very little patience with the "She was giving out mixed signals" school of defence. It is possible to tell is someone wants to have sex with you within 10 seconds of meeting them, and I can still make that distinction while hammered enough that staggering to a urinal is a challenge. Certainly I have never "flirtatiously" put my hands inside another persons clothes without having been kissing them passionately for at least 5 minutes beforehand, and in that situation there are arms, legs, necks and faces to stroke to better effect. So yeah, in my frame of reference a guy sticking his hand inside a shirt without "prior" should expect to get that hand back with a broken finger or two, a slap, or if he is very lucky, a glare.

Raza wrote:

Grabbing people as a means of flirting is certainly unpleasant; the mark of drunk-stupid guys under the inebriated impression that they're as attractive as they are attractable...

Agree

Raza wrote:

but it is not generally malign,

I agree that it is not "intentionally" malign,

Raza wrote:

and it is not molestation. It's a crude but essentially positive message of attraction,

Disagree - you are trying to classify something that is subjectively experienced in terms of it's subjective intention. If I accidentally run someone over, it's different from me intentionally driving them down. But the victim is still run over. The person on the receiving end has the same unpleasant experience regardless of my intent.

Raza wrote:

being further distorted on the receiving end by the omnipresent influence of sexually repressive culture. Doing it won't get you laid, but demonizing it will only further escalate cultural polarization and individual oversensitivity.


A friend of mine wrote a very funny article once about how he never got laid right through the 90's because he was petrified of objectifying his women friends.

I think a lot of the relationship side of gender politics is total rubbish. But there are some legitimate concerns. I'm not "demonising" anything. Just pointing out that a certain action meets a certain criteria to be considered "X". This wasn't a pat on the shoulder misinterpreted by a nutty co-worker. This wasn't an invasion of personal space that she was too polite to point out. It's her body and she gets to decide what happens to it.

Oh, and you keep mentioning our "repressed sexual culture"... I assure you that sex clubs have a far dimmer view of that kind of behaviour, because if you can't feel safe chained naked to an inverted cross, where can you feel safe?
Housellama wrote:

Well said.
<snip>

Thanks! We seem to largely agree. =)

shamelessmerc wrote:

That's fair enough, and that's 90% of our disagreement. But I made sure I reread the section in question a couple of times before I posted, and I'm still confident in my initial assumptions, and that most people would read them the same way.

Now, I'm quite prepared to accept the argument that for the particular character of Wanda "Unwelcome Part" is anything beyond the fingertips, but even if it is the case, what is wrong with respecting that? And if it isn't the case, "Unwelcome Part" means exactly what it would to most members of the population, a supposition that is further bolstered by the nature of Wanda's retaliation.

Most people I know don't like to be flirtatiously touched anywhere by people they don't find attractive. On the other hand, quite a few enjoy it from people they do like, even strangers. When 'unwelcome' is a matter of who's doing the touching... well, certainly people should respect it once they find out, but that does have to happen first.

I see your point on the uncroaked, but find it equally likely that Wanda had them lay it on a bit thicker to drive the point home. The whole move is a parody; some exaggeration seems to be expected.

Iunno. It's open to interpretation; there's arguments for either view. Let's call it a known range of uncertainty and agree to disagree. =)

shamelessmerc wrote:
Lol... VERY experienced thank you :-) Which is why I have very little patience with the "She was giving out mixed signals" school of defence. It is possible to tell is someone wants to have sex with you within 10 seconds of meeting them, and I can still make that distinction while hammered enough that staggering to a urinal is a challenge.

Cool; you must explain that to me some time. In my experience, there's people who clearly are or clearly aren't interested... and then a lot who give neutral signals. Personally, I'm inclined to leave those alone, but I know from experience that that group includes shy/inattentive/flirtatiously inexperienced people whose answer would be 'yes' if only they were more effective communicators. In fact, I spent a year or so in that group when I first started going out, and I'm rather grateful to have met a few people forward enough to push through that unintentional resistance when I needed them to.

shamelessmerc wrote:

Disagree - you are trying to classify something that is subjectively experienced in terms of it's subjective intention. If I accidentally run someone over, it's different from me intentionally driving them down. But the victim is still run over. The person on the receiving end has the same unpleasant experience regardless of my intent.

Well, sure. But while mostly everybody would agree that being run over is a bad thing, the unpleasantness of being touched is highly subjective. I'll agree that the receiving party's interpretation is the final word in every situation once it's known, but the fact is that we interact with each other in a lot of ways without prior negotiation, and every single one of those could be interpreted as unpleasant. For example, kids are told that addressing people are 'mr/ms' or 'sir/madam' is polite... but I personally hate it when people do it to me. Are they responsible for guessing that? Or for asking me before they speak? Or is it fair - on the general assumption that while being spoken to is potentially upsetting, it is physically harmless - that good intentions are enough until told otherwise?

Where you draw the line with that sort of thing comes down to culture and preference: necessarily subjective, and necessarily arbitrary. Under those conditions, I object to condemning any set of expectations (or the actions that logically follow from them), however common or esoteric, as immoral; only once someone's preferences are known can anybody be reasonable held accountable for respecting them.

Groping people is controversial in our culture, but it is physically harmless: negative interpretations may be common and intense, but they remain entirely subjective. So while knowing what I do about our culture I certainly wouldn't advice opening up with it, my argument from above does apply, and I maintain that it cannot be called unethical (which seems implied in 'molestation') without resorting to ethnocentrism.

shamelessmerc wrote:

Oh, and you keep mentioning our "repressed sexual culture"... I assure you that sex clubs have a far dimmer view of that kind of behaviour, because if you can't feel safe chained naked to an inverted cross, where can you feel safe?

Oh, I know. =)

But sex clubs are hardly uninfluenced by sexual repression. In fact, as centers of sexpositive counterculture, they're in many ways defined by it. If this battle were fought, won and forgotten entirely for a generation or two, sensibilities and sensitivities would relax a lot compared to what people on either end of the current divide are used to.