[WIR: Magic’s Promise] 4-3: He Didn’t Ask For This

Now, then. Where was I?

Well, I was here. As I said before, I am now intending to continue my WIR of the Valdemar books in a medium that I control. I’ll also be a little more diligent about backing up what I write; I’ve got a half-written draft of my thoughts on, but since I can’t get to what I read that wasn’t emailed back to me, I can’t get some quotes and context I’d like.

Also, as a note: This wordpress theme does a great deal of auto-formatting with quotes. This means that I have apparently lost my ability to italicize or otherwise call out Vanyel’s internal monologue.

I’ll probably have to learn how to customize WordPress themes and re-learn CSS to fix this

Well, both history and programming can wait.

Vanyel slept until noon. The guest room was at the front of the building, well away from all the activity of the stables and yards. The bed curtains were as thick and dark as he could have wished. And someone had evidently given the servants orders to stay out of his room until he called for them. Which was just as well, since Van was trusting his reflexes not at all.

We’re getting continual references to Vanyel’s jumpiness. This is a point that I wish more fantasy stories would examine. For most people, picking up a gun or other high-powered weapon is a heavy psychological burden. By holding a weapon, you have obligated yourself to use it responsibly, to point it only in safe directions, to make sure that it’s safety-on and unloaded and so forth, and you are always aware that if you are careless or negligent, even for a moment, someone could die.

Magic, as portrayed in fantasy settings, is like a gun that you can never put down. And Valdemarian magic is magic that’s keyed heavily to emotions, to the point where anxiety over losing control of your magic might itself fuel a magical outburst. And Vanyel is Vanyel. He’s basically a walking antiaircraft cannon at his mildest setting. The worry here isn’t that he lashed out and hurts a servant, it’s that he lashes out and breaks the keep.

But uninterrupted sleep does Vanyel a lot of good. He rises peacefully, and lingers by the window, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and morning birdsong.

He sent out a testing thought – tendril. :’Fandes?:
:Bright the day, sleepy one,: she responded, the Hawkbrother greeting.
He laughed silently, and took a deep breath of air that tasted only faintly of falling leaves and leafsmoke. :And wind to thy wings, sweetling. Would you rather laze about or go somewhere today?:
:Need you ask? Laze about, frankly. I think I’m going to spend the rest of the day the way I did this morning- napping in the sun, doing slow stretches. That pulled tendon needs favoring yet.:
He nodded, turning away from the window. :I don’t doubt. Makes me glad I was running lighter than normal after you pulled it.:
She laughed, and moved farther out into her field so that he could see her from the window. :I won’t say it didn’t help. Well, go play gallant to your mother and get it over with. With any luck, she hasn’t had a chance to bring in one of the local fillies.:

Hmm. Now that’s interesting. QHATs, we know, have freakishly high endurance. But now that the book mentions it, dealing with potential repetitive stress injury is just as important as caloric reserves and overheating. Now I’m wondering how many legendary Companion feats of endurance requires the Companion in question to be put back together by Healers after the fact.

And come on, Vanyel. We’ve already established that your mother is on-point when it comes to family stuff. You know that she probably has a rotating set of suitors on-call at all times, just in case you happen to pay an unexpected visit in the middle of the night unannounced.

Vanyel does ring up a servant, and gets one immediately, prompting Vanyel to realize that he’s been waiting outside the door for him.

“I’d like something to eat,” he said, “And wash water, please. And-listen, there is no reason to expect me to wake before midmorning, and noon is likelier. I surely won’t want anyone or anything before noon. So pass that on, would you? No use in having one of you cool his heels for hours!”
The swarthy manservant looked surprised, then grinned and nodded before hurrying off after Vanyel’s requests.

Hmm. I’d figure “Doze in a doorframe for a few hours in case the Herald-Mage does need early-morning tea.” would be a sought-after manservant posting. Maybe the servants here are just super-dedicated. Or maybe they recognize that one night terror and reflexive casting from Vanyel could explode everything in a hundred-yard radius, and are acting accordingly.

Vanyel hunted up his clothing, deciding on an almost-new dark blue outfit about the time the wash water arrived. It felt rather strange not to be wearing Whites, but at the same time he was reveling in the feel of silk and velvet against his skin. The Field uniforms were strictly utilitarian, leather and raime, wool and linen. And he hadn’t had many occasions to wear formal, richer Whites. No wonder they call me a peacock. Sensualist that I am – I like soft clothing. Well, why not?

First, raime is a super-strong and exotic natural fiber. It’s not the kind of thing I’d imagine goes well into uniforms.

Next, we’re seeing some interesting comparisons here. The amount of time it takes Vanyel to pick an outfit suitable for doing the Valdemarian equivalent of binging on Netflix is the amout of time it takes a manservant to depart and return having procured a bucket of water. If we assume Vanyel’s fairly high up (which we should from his perspective on Yfandes), either that manservant is booking it, or we’re getting a neat little extra tell-don’t-show of Vanyel’s peacockitude.

The line of the outfit is rather ruined by Vanyel’s Miracle Stress-And-Field-Rations Weight-Loss diet, but Vanyel simply adds a belt.

He sighed, and applied himself to his breakfast. It was always far easier to gain weight than to lose it, anyway, that was one consolation!
After that he felt ready to face his mother. And whatever lady-traps she had baited and ready.

You know, lady-trap is…OK, yes, yes, I know, we’re just going to move right on past the obvious, yes? But beyond that, it’s a really wierd way to refer to suitors you’re not interested in even remotely. The more this goes on, the more I think that shay’a’chern isn’t a really good way to describe Vanyel. In our world, I’d want to call him Kinsey-5, and also very much not given to casual lusting.

Vanyel arms himself with his lute, figuring he can hopefully distract his mother with it. Uh. OK, Vanyel. If you’re wanting to avoid the attentions of women, mayboe not carrying around your guitar-equivalent with your Bardic Gift subwoofers would be a better plan.

Ah, well. You do you, Vanyel.

“Hello, Mother,” Vanyel said, leaning down to kiss Treesa’s gracefully extended, perfumed fingertips. “You look younger every time I see you.”
The other ladies giggled, pretended to sew, fluttered fans. Treesa colored prettily at the compliment, and her silver eyes sparkled. For that moment the compliment wasn’t a polite lie.

Heh. I’m not sure if there’s a formal term for ‘statements which are not true, but become true in the act of making them’, but that is a good example of one.

“Vanyel, you have been away far too long!” She let her hand linger in his for a moment, and he gently squeezed it. She fluttered her eyelashes happily. Flirtation was Treesa’s favorite game; courtly love her choice of pastime. It didn’t matter that the courtier was her son; she had no intention of taking the game past the graceful and empty movements of the dance of words and gesture, and he knew it, and she knew he knew it, so everyone was happy. She was never so alive as when there was someone with her willing to play her game.

Uh. Well, that’s…a little odd. It raises a lot of questions about Withen, actually, especially if this has been an ongoing thing. It apparently doesn’t bother Sir Man-a-lot that his wife is flirting with basically everyone?

Then again, given the difference we’ve seen between his public and his private face, that makes sense. In public, he simply doesn’t notice it, and in private, he has absolute faith in his wife’s fidelity, so no questions are raised and she can interact as she sees fit.

Also, we’re getting a bit more context for Vanyel’s problems. It sounds like Vanyel’s internalized a lot of flirtation-patterns as simply the way that you interact with people, and has only partially unlearned that, so many of his interactions with women are colored by him giving off subtle and not-so-subtle signals of interest.

In the gauze-bedecked bower, full of fluttering femininity in pale colors and lace, he was quite aware that he looked all the more striking in his midnight blue. He hoped it would give him enough distinction – and draw enough attention to the silver in his hair – so that Treesa would remember he wasn’t fifteen anymore. “Alas, first lady of my heart,” he said with a quirk of one eyebrow, “I fear I had very little choice in the matter. A Herald’s duty lies at the King’s behest.”

…goddamnit, Vanyel. The lute was one thing, but dressing to look striking and sexy and convey that you’re not a young boy any more? Well, if you want to turn the lady-traps into lady-pursuit-predators…

Actually, I am wondering if this is being set up as deliberate blindness on Vanyel’s part. Maybe the payoff of this is going to be the revelation that Treesa is actually doing what she can to stem the tide of eligible bachelorettes, and all of the romantic overatures Vanyel is offered are being offered without any prompting from her whatsoever.

She dimpled, and patted the rose – velvet cushion of the stool placed beside her chair. “We’ve been hearing so many stories about you, Vanyel. This spring there was a minstrel here who sang songs about you!” She fussed with the folds of her saffron gown as he took his seat at her side. Her maids (those few who weren’t at work at the three looms placed against the wall) and her fosterlings all gathered up their sewing and spinning at this unspoken signal and gathered closer. The sun-bright room glowed with the muted rainbow colors of their gowns, and Vanyel had to work to keep himself from smiling, as faces – young, and not-so-young, pretty and plain – turned toward him like so many flowers toward the sun. He’d not gotten this kind of attention even when he was the petted favorite of this very bower.

But then, when he’d been the bower pet, he’d only been a handsome fifteen-year-old, with a bit of talent at playing and singing. Now he was Herald-Mage Vanyel, the hero of songs.

Huh. This is a definite and interesting contrast to Vanyel’s reaction to being found out in the inn previously. Apparently, he does feel much more at ease being acknowledged as a hero here.

:And all too likely to have his foot stepped on if he comes near me with a swelled head,: said Yfandes.

— — —

Vanyel: :No, that’s entirely fair. I definitely should have regular reminders of my limitations. Just because I’m a uniquely-gifted Herald-Mage with power to spare and the best wardrobe in-:

Yfandes: *trots forward aggressively*

Vanyel: “Wingardium leviosa.” *gestures idly*

Yfandes: *begins gently levitating and lurches off to the side*

Yfandes: :You suck! And that’s not even a real spell!:

Vanyel: :And that is the difference between having a swelled head, and having a head that’s just the right size for your abilities.:

— — —

Vanyel takes a moment to tune his lute so he doesn’t burst out laughing at Yfandes’s commentary, then draws his weapon and rolls initiative.

“I know better songs than those, and far more suited to a lovely lady than tales of war and darkness.”
There was disappointment in some faces, but Treesa’s eyes glowed. “Would you play a love song, Van?” she asked coquettishly. “Would you play ‘My Lady’s Eyes’ for me?”
Probably the most inane piece of drivel ever written, he thought. But it has a lovely tune. Why not?
He bowed his head slightly. “My lady’s wish is ever my decree,” he replied, and began the intricate introduction at once.

And so Vanyel starts rocking out with what sounds very much like Valdemarian boy-band music, in front of the adoring crowd of assorted ladies.

And again, the more I read, the more I feel like we were being deliberately set up with a contrast between Vanyel’s portrayed problems of having to turn down all of those pesky womenfolk, and how he’s actually acting.

There does seem to be a really nuanced point about messaging and social signalling going on here, though. While Vanyel’s internal mental state might default to monkish celibacy, the actual actions he takes and interactions he has are identical to actions carefully calculated for wooing. Vanyel hasn’t done those calculations and doesn’t get this, because dressing fancy, flirting gracefully and skillfully, and rocking out at the slightest opportunity are just the way he is. But because he’s the only telepath in the room, no one else gets that.

People have the right to be who they are. No one is obliged to dress in sackcloth and ashes for fear of inflaming the lusts of others. But the flip side of that is that people also have the right to make assumptions based on the way they choose to dress and act.

We’ll pick up next time with the results of Vanyel’s rocking-out.


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4 thoughts on “[WIR: Magic’s Promise] 4-3: He Didn’t Ask For This

  1. Ah, yes. I’ve been missing this.


    • Not snow nor rain nor heat nor unreasonable moderators shall keep my WIR from its appointed rounds!

      Although, just as a heads-up, if I get banned from WordPress, it may be a while before my next update.


  2. GammaCavy on said:

    Ha, I found you! Mom and I were worried we’d lost your excellent commentary for good when the mods banned you on Yes, you make so much sense about Vanyel’s social problems. This is just the way to interact, why does everything female I meet think I’m interested in her?


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