Paradigm Concepts

Tukufu and the Red Frescos
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Author:  val Holryn [ Tue Oct 20, 2015 11:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Tukufu and the Red Frescos


Though we were hardly the closest of friends Sachya val’Holryn was important to me. She had been my father’s squire. The stories she could tell were a window into his life - a topic largely closed to me. I wanted that window. My parent’s both died in the war between Altheria and Seremas when I was young.

Thawing my way through the social ice was hardly easy. My father was forced out of Milandir by the threat of scandal. Effectively in exile, he came to Altheria and served with honor in the Shining Patrol. In due course he met and married my mother. Which did not sit well with his first wife. To be fair, if I were Odile back in Milandir, I would not have been happy either. I can see her point of view, even as I side with the rest of Altheria on how marriages ought to work. When word eventually got out, it was apparently pretty scandalous. By Milandesian standards I should be labeled a bastard.

Thankfully no one there has ever said that to my face.

So Sachya’s acceptance was important to me, but not at all a given. The slow process of winning her over was helped immeasurably by two factors. First, like many of you, I came out of the Crusade highly decorated. Conspicuous valor has burnished my credentials with Milandesians significantly. Second and no less important, Sachya and I had an overlapping collection of friends and colleagues in the “antiquity business.” Sachya loved the search for and recovery of ancient artifacts as much as I do. That gave us something significant in common, and the opportunities to repeatedly bump into each other at gatherings.

We were at the point where we talked easily in each other’s presence. We could talk shop, or about shared friends and acquaintances. Sometimes she talked about my dad and patrolling the border. And also, sometimes, her stern face cracked a little and she’d smile or call me “kid.”

I liked that.

The last time she made the long journey to the First City where I now reside we shared a lunch. She told me about frescos she had seen on the way in. My misadventure with the Red Frescoes started over that lunch with Sachya.
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“The ruined villa sheltered us from the Blood Snow but otherwise it was terribly disappointing,” she said. “I guess you would have liked it. But there was nothing portable.”

Sachya meant portable wealth.

“I would have liked it?” We were finishing lunch at Guiseppi’s, best fish dishes in the Trade District, and hadn’t quite gotten around to getting up.

“Well there was certainly nothing to take to a curio dealer. But there was this room off from the atrium that had these luscious red frescos.” Sachya actually smiled. “I thought they represented an exuberant diner party … or maybe a religious initiation among Larissains.” She put her beer down for a moment. Her third. We’d done a good job of killing an hour. She was giving me one of those measuring looks some women are good at. “You’re an aesthete. And you’re always going on about context. You probably would have loved that room.”

“An aesthete?” The corners of her mouth were still quirking upward a little. I smiled too. But I also knew she meant it as a jibe. She meant sentimental. In a roundabout way maybe even soft.

“Please kid. Sometimes you’re hopeless.” She finished the beer. “Give my best to Belinay.”
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There were plenty of reasons not to go look myself. For example I owned Litera Scripta Manet and was responsible for running it. I was also married now. And there were half a dozen prophesies circulating that said “a” or maybe “The” Destroyer was coming. Whoever that gods-be-damned person turned out to be. I was much too busy to be riding off on a whim to investigate ancient frescos. I could tell, at least in my head, that my desire to do so was the kernel of a dumb idea. But my heart had its own opinion on the matter.

So of course, despite everything, I decided to go...

I had a relatively small window of freedom over the next four days. My calendar after that was crowded. I was the only one who understood the entire plan for the security upgrades to the rare texts room. So I had to be at Litera Scripta Manet to coordinate the various craftsmen. Obviously I couldn’t skip out on that. Afterwards I had a rendezvous in Almeric with certain book by an Abbott about an orchard. If you don’t already know, don’t ask. Like several other people, I wanted it. Maybe I had an agent bringing it to me. That wouldn’t wait either. And Belinay was dropping hints that we were getting close to our second wedding anniversary …

So if I wanted to check it out I was going to have to ride out soon. From what I understood they were in a villa no more than 20 miles away. Somewhat more than half a day there riding briskly. Check it out. Spend the night. Ride back some time the next day. Potentially budget an extra day for unexpected discoveries or unwelcome complications. Three days. That meant I only had the remainder of the afternoon and the next day for preparations.

Obviously I wanted someone to guard my back. So I started asking certain people if they were free for a little “impromptu art appreciation.” Many of my usual travelling companions were not to be found under such short notice. Others had their own business to take care of. Sachya was one of those. One comrade even had the nerve to look at me funny and say, “Art? Really?”

Suffice it to say I struck out.

Now normally I would never have traveled by myself to explore ruins. I trust you will perceive the very obvious reasons! My dumb idea was definitely getting dumber. Still... Sachya was from Tralia. Tralia, if you haven’t seen it, is the Milandesian city guarding the dreary northern border against Canceri. Tralia dreams, if it’s possible for cities to dream, of being an impregnable fortress. And Sachya was like that too. So if somehow the artistry of the frescoes moved her despite the layers of her jaded defenses…well I was willing to bet that they were worth the trip.

In my experience most danger comes from money - that is to say greedy people - and forgotten monsters. Neither of those seemed to apply in this case. I thought I could still risk it.

Author:  acurrier [ Tue Oct 20, 2015 11:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

Well written, looking forward to P2

Author:  PCIHenry [ Wed Oct 21, 2015 8:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

Very nicely done, Eric. I look forward to part two, as well.

Author:  val Holryn [ Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

Thanks for the thumbs up. I've never turned my hand to writing fan fiction before. Its a lot like boxed text. But more complicated.

I wouldn't have thought about writing a "Tukufu story," but I was cleaning up awhile back and found an old unread issue of Archaeology Magazine under my couch that had this picture from the Villa of Mysteries in Pompei. My first thought was ... wow those Red Frescos looks a lot like something I'd like to see in Arcanis! And my second was, what if Tukufu discovered something like that...

I have a rough draft of Part II done. I hope to edit it and get it up on Saturday.

Author:  val Holryn [ Fri Oct 23, 2015 10:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos


“So your ‘master plan’ essentially consists of just riding out there alone?” Belinay asked.

I was on the receiving end of another woman giving me a measuring look. My wife was curled up in my favorite chair, rereading my copy of Cosmology by Netius the Elder. Belinay was looking at me over the top of the scroll. “I know you said the place is abandoned, but what about traps?”

“Sachya didn’t see anything like that.” I said, “Besides it’s a villa, not a treasure vault. No one puts traps in the middle of where they live.”

“Oh really? No one…” Belinay looked past me to where the rare texts room was. She was positively scowling when she looked back at me.

“Uh, …look if by some chance there’s an ancient library there I promise I’ll stay away from it.” And yeah okay – if you know me at all, you’re right - that was a bald faced lie. If there was a library in the ruins I’d swim through a river of scorpions to reach it. My wife certainly wasn’t fooled. But I got lucky. Rather than call me out she moved on.

“Special Weather? Wild animals? Bandits?”

“I have gear for that and I’ll take all my flintlocks. If worse comes to worse I’ll abandon the horses and slip sideways…all the way home on foot if necessary.” That plan made good theory but I’ve never tested the proposition. As it happens there is essentially no strain to that particular manifestation of the Arcanum. So I could probably do it over and over again without passing out or exploding my head. But no one I knew had ever tried to cast it every few seconds over extended travel either. Most vals can’t learn it at all, though somehow its part of my unusual heritage. Mostly it’s only elorii who use it. And as an Altherian I’m not overblessed with an abundance of elorii friends.

“You trust Sachya?”

“Uh…Saycha?” Where did that come from? “Sure. I mean she’s … a Milandsian. Maybe if there was some magical ‘Golden Idol’ involved … but it’s just frescos. It’s not her kind of thing. Or … I don’t even know. Once upon a time she was Dad’s squire. So yeah. I trust her.”

Belinay got up and crossed the floor to me.

“You realize don’t you that this is a dumb idea?” She leaned in and I felt her soft lips on the corner of my mouth. She snuggled against me for a moment. “Some women would worry about a rival lover,” she pulled away and padded back to the chair.

“Just make sure you come home in one piece.”
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I can sit a horse well enough, but the bandits of the Blessed Lands are all masters of the saddle. Travelling alone, I kept a very wary eye out on the horizon. Thankfully the trip out proved to be uneventful. In the morning light, with dramatic long shadows still on the ground, the Blessed Lands has a stark inspirational beauty. I found the first few hours of travel calm and peaceful.

Following Sachya’s directions I trotting out to a flyspeck village called Broken Arch. There some hard eyed men watched me while I paid for the privilege of watering my mounts. Not exactly friendly. But there were also lots of kids merrily playing a game with a rag ball in the dust. I figured the place must be alright. From Broken Arch it was a straight shot to some scrub infested hills about three miles away.

So far so good.

If I hadn’t known where the villa was, I never would have wended my way deep enough into the thorny brambles to spot the ruins. I wondered a little why Sachya had come this way at all. The sun beat down on me, and I was pretty much done with"the poetry of the morning light" thing. The afternoon was hot. My bottom was sore, I was sweating, and everything looked brown and grey and drab. Thankfully I found it, half buried with sand and grit. My heart beat a little faster at the thought of new secrets from the past.

Bandits were still a real concern. So I made myself take the time to look thoroughly for ambushes, recent encampments or even just signs of passage. Nothing. The area was essentially pristine.

Yes! Dumb idea or not, I was going to get away with this.
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The layout, from what I could see, was a somewhat like the large domus of a Coryani senator. But the entrance was buried and half collapsed and the few windows on the exposed wall were tiny things, high up and narrow like arrow slits. If this place is early Coryani and not First Imperium they probably are arrow slits. I cursed myself a little because I hadn’t asked Sachya where and how she had entered the building. And, you know, in retrospect that would have been a pretty useful question.

I wasn’t getting in at ground level.

So I hobbled the horses and got up on top. I was a little surprised to see that the roof ran across the entire structure. In Coryan, a structure this big would have had an open interior space. Probably a columned peristyle open to the sky. But given the weather in the Blessed Lands I could understand a desire to restrict ones exposure. Or maybe the place did date to the First Imperium and wasn't on a Coryani floor plan. Without more details it was hard to know.

The roof sloped ever so slightly inward to a compluvium. To the uninitiated, that’s the opening in the roof over the impluvium below where rain water is gathered. For me, it was going to be my front door. I carefully picked my way across ancient tiles to look down. Some light was slanting in but I wanted to illuminate the floor. I lit a torch and dropped it down.

I could see sand and grit had blown in over the ages and had made a shallow dune bellow me. The torch sputtered, but even in the uneven light I could see lots of tiny tracks from mice. Or maybe small lizards. Obviously not a threat. I’m no wildlife expert, but I thought the tracks were a good sign. Whatever it was that made them was running around freely– so probably no dangerous predators were lairing here.

I had brought up two long spears and a backpack full of “useful things.” I pulled a coil of rope from the backpack and tied the spears together in an “X” and braced them across the compluvium. I then dropped the extra length of rope to the floor and pitched the backpack over. It landed with a loud thud and I waited a long beat.

No response from anything inside.

I think it’s just me.

So I climbed down.

Author:  Haakon_val'Ishi [ Sat Oct 24, 2015 11:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

I'm curious about timing. At what point in history did the Blessed Lands become the wasteland it more or less is today? We know there were battles fought over it between the Issori and the Ssethregorans, likely between the Elorii and the Ssethregorans, and between the Elorii and the Humans when they showed up looking for the Other (the so-called Great Betrayal by the Elorii). It was during that last conflict the Elorii unleashed the "death curse," (Kurenthe--no sure of the exact spelling) that wrought such havoc on the land. All this was BEFORE the First Imperium. So it sounds like the area around the First City was pretty much devastated even before the First Imperium was founded. Not a very inviting place to put a villa. Am I missing something here?

That said Eric I do love the story so please continue... :)

Author:  PCIHenry [ Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

Curiouser and curiouser.

Enjoying this. I'll have to add a notation of an Andyar village called the Broken Arch into the manuscript.

Wouldn't want the esteemed Master Tufuku exploits doubted. :-)

Author:  Haakon_val'Ishi [ Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

Are the various ruins of which Broken Arch is no doubt a part of, only relics of the First Imperium? I'm at work, so do don't have access to any books. Is there any reason ruins couldn't be Ssethregoran, Elorii, or even Issori? "Alien" ruins could be really cool to explore...and likely even more dangerous...which makes it even more fun. ;)

Author:  Nierite [ Sat Oct 24, 2015 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

There are no reason they could not be from a non-human race. However, by this point the sands of time may have wiped away all of the features except the structure, rendering their exact nature unknown.

Strange note*: For some reason, the people of this tiny village have never seen or heard of the val'Inares. In all their memories nobody of that family has ever passed within sight of their village. If asked about this, the val'Inares will make comments about having something else to do and walk away. . .

* = This is completely made up and so far has no actual basis in canon Arcanis records :P

Author:  val Holryn [ Sun Oct 25, 2015 1:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Tukufu and the Red Frescos

Haakon_val'Ishi wrote:
...snip... So it sounds like the area around the First City was pretty much devastated even before the First Imperium was founded. Not a very inviting place to put a villa. Am I missing something here?

Nope. But Illiir did say "base your operations here and spread out!" 20 miles seems like a reasonable distance for some kind of temple, fort or town to have been built outside the First City...perhaps eventually leaving a broken archway to serve as a founding point for Broken Arch. 3 miles from that is not an unreasonable distance for smaller satellite domicile. Or maybe the arch was originally eloran and the building is something else altogether? Read on!

PCI Henry wrote:
Enjoying this. I'll have to add a notation of an Andyar village called the Broken Arch into the manuscript.

Wouldn't want the esteemed Master Tufuku exploits doubted. :-)

That would be very flattering and, to quote JP, like super awesome!!! But be careful! If Tukufu's exploits here become cannon, then my next story is going to be called: Tukufu Tames an Airwhale!!! :P

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