§ 2020-11-01 02:20:13


[02:20] Given the status quo, had there been much of anything Evenatra could have said to soothe Edaaj's mind? It was miserable out here – maybe once she would have been happy with it, on the move, imagining that it was mostly by choice, crafting things for Athechelt and the others. There were two cultures at her fingertips that could give her a greater purpose: The humans or what Baishar had offered.

The humans were separated from her by the gulf of language. Baishar and Valcen by the gulf of what she understood of moral behaviour, however much it was on shaky ground.

And it was Baishar who was watching her as she returned to the niche, looking at her with an emotion that matched an obvious interest with something much like pity. The prisoner was pitying her. Although he wasn't all too much of a prisoner to begin with, making it somewhat less of an insult.

It was mostly the humans who were sleeping this time. Baishar whispered to her: "Everything okay?" Evidently Edaaj was not particularly good at hiding her upset – if she was even trying.


[02:35] Upset, and also exhausted. All in all, she appeared not only as if she might keel over into the nearest ditch, but that she would actively prefer this to whatever state she was in now. Her reply was brusque, though the tone of it utterly lacked any sting: "No. Not really." She sank to the ground, head and all, in a fluffy heap.


[02:44] Baishar left her be for a moment, although his attention remained firmly on her. Perhaps he was thinking about something, or trying to make sense of her mood privately, having the usual good kavkem sense to puzzle things out quietly before starting a conversation — or maybe he was just otherwise intrigued by her behaviour.

Eventually, it resolved as the former, and he ventured a guess that could just as well stand alone if he was completely off the mark: "This situation is wearing everyone down. This... constant running. Isn't it?"


[02:56] "Yes." Edaaj looked blearily up at him. "Even when I sleep, I no longer sleep well. I could sleep for days, if this would just end." She did not mention her other reasons for looking miserable. While she had not promised, and Evenatra had not said, that their conversation should be private, she felt disinclined to speak of it just now.

Instead, she asked, "Are you doing well, at least?"


[03:04] "I seem to be out of practise with this much running," he admitted – he had slowed them down a little on the way from their first camp to this one. "My muscles are aching." But he said it with a trace of humour, as though he meant to make fun of himself for how out of shape he was.

He cast a light smile her way. "But I have it the best of all of you, really, as you've been very kind to me," he said, dipping his muzzle down almost far enough to touch the ground. "And on top of that, however illegitimate the luxury may be, unlike anyone else here, I needn't fear our pursuers – or at least not that much. So the exhaustion and my yearning to return are my only problems, approximately."


[03:14] Well, she had asked. She could not, in all honestly, blame him for answering, though she was not able to stop herself from having a brief, private moment of envy-driven resentment.

[03:19] Oh, well, she thought, pushing it aside. "At least someone is dealing well with this." She glanced at the humans. "I have to wonder how they're doing. I haven't seen anything to suggest that they're used to it, either."


[03:44] "They're not even dealing well with the nocturnal lifestyle," Baishar observed, softly. "It's friendly of them to try and emulate it, but... they're just not." He refrained from adding 'Just like the Nayabaru,' given they were in all other regards not at all like the Nayabaru, and he didn't want to imply anything beyond similar biological clocks.

Had he met this group in any other circumstance, he might have been more reluctant to say so, but perhaps the people here had been sufficiently disabused of the notion that Nitish Ynas was an actual force in the world. They couldn't possibly still believe it. At most, they believed that they believed it.

§ 2020-11-02 00:42:37


[00:42] The observation stung, and her expression morphed from exhausted distress to something like pain.

[00:52] Because it was true, or at least supported the observations she'd made herself. For all that they'd tried to adapt their behavior to that of their guests, it was clear that it was not natural to them; they weren't as wakeful at night, nor could they see well in it. Nadani had said that they hadn't even understood the need to stay in the shade during the day, at first. None of this suggested creatures who knew enough only to come out at night.

[01:02] And yet, nothing in their behavior suggested they were Tarnished, not a single thing. They had even been remarkably friendly to beings who shared almost nothing in appearance or language, a trait that seemed far more appropriate to the kavkema than the Nayabaru.

[01:07] It wasn't the first time that she had had reason to find some of the tenets she'd grown up with to not quite make sense... but before, it hadn't been so glaringly at odds with reality. Before, she hadn't been in the thick of a situation where it mattered.

[01:09] Nitish Ynas was wrong. Taaravahr was based, loosely, on truth, but in the literal sense was also wrong. Her understanding of the world was wrong.

[01:16] A very tiny sound, a whine of anguish, escaped her.


[22:12] Baishar wasn't sure what had prompted the whine and lowered his muzzle lightly and apologetically. Had his unspoken but obvious analogy struck a nerve? Or was he misjudging how Edaaj and the others now considered Nitish Ynas? Was she, perhaps, just unhappy that the humans were so obviously struggling, when all they wanted to do was help?

Was she unhappy that they really couldn't?

"I guess they're not emulating it well," he offered in an attempt of generic diplomacy, smiling weakly but encouragingly.

§ 2020-11-03 17:45:50


[02:36] Edaaj tried to gather her scattered wits. "No," she managed unsteadily. "No, they don't." She pulled her head up from the ground to look at him. "I knew.... I knew that there were those who did not subscribe to Nitish Ynas. I knew that there were some things that, that didn't seem..." The words tangled in her mouth. "But I didn't think it was this wrong. I didn't think so many things, after being passed down for generations, could be so wrong. And the ways we acted, from believing it-"

[02:44] The misconceptions. The wasted effort. How many afflicted kavkema treated by being kept in the dark rather than... than something else? How much precious time and effort spent making and carrying shades? How many types of prey had they discarded for living or sleeping in the light? How many places or times of travel had been passed up, regardless of opportunity, because of the dangers of Tarnish? What could they have managed if they hadn't been shackled by all of it?

[02:47] It made her want to throw up. Or hit someone. Or just cover herself over with dirt and go to sleep.

[02:48] Instead, she just asked, in a very small voice, "How many kavkema are there that have believed in other things?"


[18:59] Baishar's kavkem instinct was to object – even from his perspective as a waning adherent of Leksharia, Nitish Ynas had never been wrong, it had been someone's useful metaphor, it captured a facet of the world in a useful way.

He could even see how it must have served them – spurned them into finding better hiding places, set them up so they would never as much as be tempted to try (futile) diplomacy with the Nayabaru, keeping their activities strictly to those times where the Nayabaru were unlikely to see them – but she was clearly upset about it and trying to bolster her failed belief was unlikely to yield results.

And then there was his own belief. Dynashari Leksharia. How many kavkema were there, indeed, who believed in other things? There had always been space for all of it. He had had his disagreements with Ryrha—

The thought of Ryrha came with a pang of unease. For a moment, it overpowered the rest of his thoughts. He could never disagree with Ryrha again, that was a far too cerebral interaction for her state. In some alternate universe, Baishar winced.

he had had his disagreements with Ryrha, even, but they had still tolerated and respected each others' beliefs. Of course, Ryrha's had been close to his, but that, he was sure, had made it more difficult rather than easier.

"There are many different ones," Baishar mused softly. "I've heard that most of Shyilun believe Akynkulla, if that tells you anything."

And you? What do you believe? He hesitated – it felt private, less for the religious notion encapsulated by it and more by his decision to attach it to Valcen. It would likely be impossible to hide that he'd drawn that correspondence, if he was drawn into a discussion about the mythological fundamentals... no matter. "I was raised on Leksharia."


[19:41] Edaaj was not intensively familiar with the other kavkem faiths. What others believed, by and large, had not been as important as how they acted, at least on those occasions when her group had crossed paths with others. Leksharia, at least, was one whose name she knew, as its adherents could sometimes be found in the same range as her own faith, even if only passing through.

[19:44] It was, at any rate, a brief distraction from her own turmoil to try to recall what she knew of it – which, when she said it, sounded ludicrously puny. "That's... it's something to do with old gods and new gods? If I recall?"


[21:11] It pushed the shy part of Baishar further into its shell. He fought the effect, thinking of how patiently Valcen had explained things to him in the past – he would want, so Baishar reasoned, that his protégé also did not shy away from sharing what he knew and believed just because it came attached with emotions that might be inopportune.

"The core of it is a power asymmetry, based on the observations that Tamachelu appears to be regrettably and critically outmatched by the Karesejat Terenyira," Baishar volunteered, cautiously. "Indeed, it seems all of the gods we know may be concerned about her.

"There's—" There's Valcen. Valcen is definitely concerned. But that's not one she would recognise as a deity. "—Tkanetar, for example, who tried to destroy this entire world in an effort to end the Karesejat – and, as you know, failed." He shrugged lightly, looking a little glum in the process. Not that he was glum that the planet still existed; but it was still a high mark of failure for a god.

"So, just as we have a category – or a word, some vocabulary, if you will – to put a name to the sort of thing that Tamachelu is and the sort of thing that Tkanetar, Maenona and Garukaron are, perhaps it makes sense to have vocabulary that puts a name to the sort of thing that the Karesejat is.

"And as She Who Sees appears to be a recent affliction, there is a certain threat that perhaps the gods that we know in our pantheon... are in fact obsolete, lest they do something to close the power differential to what Leksharia refers to as the High Gods." 'Havnateha', vocabulary that was recognisably Leksharia.


[00:11] For someone not used to thinking of the gods as people at all, it all sounded odd – though Edaaj was conscious that, here and now, it still made far more sense to her than it would have previously. She did not know what Evenatra was doing except to stir up and support kavkem resistance to the Karesejat, but after generations of doing so she had little to show for it.

[00:13] And she remembered what Evenatra had said about the creation of Terenyira. Aloud, fascinated by the shape of the idea, she murmured, "They have made their own replacements."


[01:42] Baishar was a moment away from asking what do you mean?, before the context clicked into proper place. His expression darkened briefly – there was a part of him that wanted to chide 'It's not that simple,' that it wasn't necessarily guaranteed that the Gods would make the High Gods, that Terenyira's specific past was a coincidence... but the fire for the objection was quick to wane.

Instead, he said: "You know of ver then? Of the Karesejat's maker?" But it was a rhetorical question, intoned with a soft sadness of someone's grisly fate. "Ve isn't common knowledge, ve doesn't... feature in any pantheon," he mused, reflecting on it as he said it – could one interpret ver and vis downfall as Manevash?

But no, that seemed a poor fit – ve had brought the conflict to its highest contention, Terenyira was no act of diplomacy or communication, unless one had truly twisted definitions of those words. He flicked his muzzle so lightly as that it was almost imperceptible, dismissing the thought. Ve was clearly not replaced in any sense that traditional Leksharia thought of it.

"Yet ve was much like Tamachelu and Tkanetar – in that sense you are right." And here he paused, lingering on a thought he had privately entertained for a while, before finally giving it a cautious voice: "Or perhaps ve has become the Karesejat Terenyira; replaced verself in the most literal, immediate fashion."

His tone had implied 'We'll never know', but it suited Leksharia so well. Those who had transcended, after all, did by Dynashari reckoning not always have that much in common with their previous incarnations – like larva, pupa and grown insect. Perhaps Ysikary was simply the discarded shell of what she had become.

He didn't need to fake his shudder. It was all alien; he was willing to confront it, to embrace it, but no one had ever claimed it would be easy to do these things. He was quite cognizant of that he had already lost parts of himself and gained new parts better suited to the path he was taking.


[02:02] Edaaj shuddered as well. Though she had gotten the impression that Ysikary was no longer around, Evenatra had not said what exactly had happened to ver. What Baishar was saying, suggested that Ysikary had been... subsumed? Merged? It sounded terrifying.

[02:07] For once, she wasn't sure she wanted to know the details, not now. But certainly it explained why the other gods had had so much trouble with it.

[02:17] "I didn't know of Ysikary until a little while ago," she said at last. "I realized that if Evenatra really was Tamachelu... she would have answers to some of my questions. So I went to her and asked her, and she gave me a... a summary of certain things. How things happened. And-" She hadn't know what she'd expected to gain. Knowledge? Well, yes, of course. Peace of mind? Perhaps – if so, that end had failed miserably.

[02:18] "-it was enlightening but not reassuring," she finished lamely.


[03:01] "Understandable; the universe isn't particularly kind to us," Baishar agreed, gently. "We are quite far down the pecking order," he said, glancing out into the landscape as though looking for Evenatra, whom they had spoken of as comparatively powerless in light of Terenyira. "But maybe we can do something about it, in the long term." Transcend, he thought, followed by Like Ysikary.

Maybe it was best not to say that part out loud.

§ 2020-11-04 22:05:50


[22:05] "Maybe," Edaaj replied, without sounding extremely hopeful. "But I have not seen any evidence that we are likely to get any more space than we already have to improve our situation." If indeed, she added privately, one assumed that the kavkema weren't going to simply get less.

[22:09] The idea of transcendence might have modified her thinking greatly, if she had had any reason to apply the possibility to mortals.

§ 2020-11-06 22:30:05


[22:30] Baishar opened his mouth, about to unthinkingly say, 'Valcen and I have been given more space,' before thinking better of it. He clacked his muzzle shut again.

...and yet.

"...remember how we spoke of the soul catchers?" 'Qidravema'. "Remember how I said Valcen's plans span more than a single kavkem lifetime?" He paused just long enough for her to recall, then continued: "That's a means to get 'more space', metaphorically speaking." For a moment, he hesitated, then added: "He's sharing that with me."


[23:13] Edaaj just stared at him.

[23:21] If everything she'd been told so far, of course, was correct, there wasn't any reason to think that such a thing wasn't possible. She didn't know why it surprised her so – perhaps she had still been thinking of the qidravema as things too removed from everyday existence; perhaps she hadn't expected such a thing to be shared; perhaps her brain just was too scattered, in need of sleep and peace and more room to think...

[23:22] "So... you are immortal?" she asked slowly, still staring. She amended, "You can have another body when this one perishes?"


[00:41] Saying 'no' was squibbling about semantics. In every appreciable sense, in every sense that was visibly important to Edaaj, the answer was 'yes'. Baishar hesitated only a moment, then swerved his muzzle affirmatively. "It's a new state for me, too," he said, by way of apology for his hesitance. "I could be restored, if I died. I would lose some memories, but—" He trailed off into a shrug.

It explained, perhaps, why he was so blasé about his captivity. He wasn't outright reckless with his life and much of his behaviour could be explained by only mildly stretching that many kavkema possessed an inherent cultural trust for other kavkema, but the new picture of him required no stretching at all.


[01:03] It made sense. It really did. It also made it much less likely that he would fear for his life if he attempted to escape and failed, which might have accounted for his previously stated intention to do so.

[01:05] "Lose memories?" she asked. "Does it then..." she tried to concentrate on the question through her sinking mood. "...does it only preserve you at particular points, then, rather than continuously?"

[01:10] Inside, she thought: He's either going to get away, or he's going to get killed – except it'll only be disembodiment. No wonder he's not worried. Either way, he's not going to be around to ask these things. And for her, it would be back to running, possibly until she dropped. Or possibly until she dropped dead. The prospect of a thousand lifetimes in which to learn sat in her view, but out of her reach.

[01:11] And the unsettling thought touched her: Is it really?


[01:33] Oblivious to her inner turmoil, too focussed on his own tension, Baishar said: "It's... a little bit more complicated than 'yes' or 'no'." It was a halting explanation, infected by traces of nervousness; he might get something wrong and then what? Valcen was infinitely better qualified to explain this.

"The... first reincarnation is always a copy. That's how one is transferred into the soul catcher in the first place. After that, there is more resilience – more continuous survival, as you call it." Was that misleading to someone who didn't already know about the subject? He couldn't tell.


[01:49] Edaaj thought she understood, or at least thought she understood what Baishar thought he understood, since it was apparent that he wasn't entirely confident.

[01:55] If Baishar died here, he would presumably not remember anything that had happened at least since the time he had left the Nayabaru behind, if not earlier. One's first death would only be a problem in the event, like that one, that it was unexpected or too long after being copied.

[02:00] She, and for that matter Baishar, could only imagine what the experience would be like. Would it be a sudden shift, a disorienting blink between places and times? Or would it be like a daydream, where one lost oneself in reverie before coming back to a here and now?

[02:03] It wasn't a question she would be able to get an answer to... at least not here.

[02:07] She couldn't just leave, she had a responsibility. She tried to force the thought out of her mind with more questions "I think I see. What does the soul catcher look like?"


[02:39] Baishar raised his forepaws cautiously to gesture with his forepaws – apparently the device had about the size of an eyeball, as opposed to enough volume to displace a whole kavkem brain. Perhaps enough to replace a cervical vertebra. "...a bit hard to describe beyond that," he apologised. At the very least, there wasn't much he could say that would differentiate it from any ordinary, perhaps slightly puzzling gadget.


[02:57] Edaaj expelled a very faint sigh. So much for that. She wondered, very briefly, if the thing could be made bigger, and what it could do if it was – but the thoughts were squeezed out by other, weightier ones, and by the aching need for rest.

[03:00] "I think..." she found herself saying, and stopped herself from saying any more. I think I want to know more about these things; I think I want a chance at immortality; I think- "...I think," she said lamely, "I am losing my ability to speak coherently. I should sleep... or try to."


[03:20] Baishar dipped his muzzle in a light apology. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to keep you from sleep." He sounded sincere – and yet, he couldn't possibly be wholly ignorant of the effect he was having and that it was a benefit that he had kept her from sleep to tell her the very things he had just told her.

Of course, even if he was that opportunistic, there was nothing to be gained by pushing for further conversation in lieu of rest. Edaaj had, after all, made it clear that she wanted the conversation to end for now. In acknowledgement, Baishar began to bundle himself into a better posture to rest in.