OT: The Scowling of the Shire

on December 7, 2011 in How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Other Tales

My dear friend Two,

I appreciate the diligence with which you have undertaken to write to me. Receiving your letters with such regularity has enabled me to keep a firmer fix on the passage of weeks than the routine of events at Ceilos would normally allow.

Though to write with all due honesty, the truth is that I have not been allowed to participate in anything resembling a normal schedule. My shifts are given over to whatever labor is both necessary and appropriate for the position I currently occupy. I do not mind the labor. I am accustomed to work, even that which might be counted as drudgery. But I am accustomed to doing it in accordance with some greater purpose, and with greater regularity. My governors here tell me that they wish to impose order on my life in order to prevent further mischief, yet order is exactly what I crave and exactly what I lack.

Incidentally, I find the use of such words as “greater” and “lesser” obviates the difficulties inherent in moving between differing vertically-oriented relational schemes.

Please convey my regards to your friend Hazel and her parent.

Your friend,
Delia Daella xd’Wyr, ~Dee


I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me more about the amphibian/avian hybrid figure who used to appear to you within your dreams. Please do not ask me why.

“How was that?” Two asked when she had finished reading. She sat in a hand-carved wooden chair at an old oak writing desk in the bedroom she was sharing for the time being with her friend Hazel.

“I take it back,” Hazel said from atop the pile of quilts piled on what was for her an outrageously oversized bed. “It’s better when you don’t do the voice. That was just… unsettling.”

“I think I did a pretty good job.”

“Too good. That’s what was unsettling,” Hazel said. “Anyway, it’s nice to be remembered. I’ll tell my father she asked after him… and that she’s stopped calling him ‘the former consort of my deceased mother’.”

“Hazel, she never called him that,” Two said.

“Not in so few words, no,” Hazel said.

Two carefully refolded the letter along its creases before slipping it back inside its envelope and filing it away. She would answer the letter promptly, of course, but she had no need to refer to it again. She could not perfectly recall every page of text she’d ever seen as some of her classmates at Magisterius University had assumed, but she did have the ability to hold an image in her mind perfectly while she was still using it.

She took a sheet of paper and began composing her reply.

Dear Dee, I am afraid you are mistaken. A turtle is technically a reptile and not an amphibian…

“So, how’d she spend a year walking around in the sunlight and never manage to hear the word ‘father’?” Hazel asked after a while.

“She knows what a father is,” Two said. “But she has loss of privacy and I do not think all the clerics who read her letters do. She avoids talking about things that will confuse them because that just delays the mail.”

“But evidently ‘vertically integrated organizational themes’ doesn’t give them any problems, does it?” Hazel said. She sat up and slid off the pile of quilts towards the edge of the bed, where she didn’t catch herself so much as briefly interrupt her fall to ensure a safer landing. “What do you want to do today, love?”

“I am a guest in your home, so I should be deferring to you,” Two said.

“Eleven to one that the etiquette guide you pulled that out of says that as hostess I’m supposed to find out activities that you like and suggest them,” Hazel said. “Don’t know who goes around giving golems advice like that… seems to me like a perfect recipe for a fatal staring contest. Anyway, I’m as much a guest here as you are, aren’t I?”

“Are you?” Two replied. “I know you chose to stay here with me instead of in your father’s apartment in town, so I’m confused about the etiquette.”

“Lot of that going around,” Hazel said. “Which is why I’d rather stay here in the lodge.”

The lodge had originally been an imperial staging inn, but once modern enchantments obviated the need for horse-drawn mail coaches it had been privatized. The way modern coaches revolutionized overland travel had proven to be a bonanza for hostelers who operated at important junctions along the major imperial roads. The road that passed through Logfallen Shire was not such a hotspot, and the inn had quickly folded.

Whether or not the Imperium was aware of the treaty that had allowed the gnomes of Logfallen to claim the building as their own was an open question, but it was unlikely they would have cared as they had already been paid for the property when the stage network was shutdown. The little folk of the shire kept the property well-maintained and made it available to outsized guests, or more often as overflow housing when another shire came to call and space was at too much of a premium for comfort.

That is to say, the residents themselves would move into the lodge for the duration of the visit while offering their guests beds in their own holes. Asking a guest to sleep above ground would have been terribly gauche.

Hazel had no trouble sleeping above ground. The only time in her life that she’d lived in a burrow had been when her mother’s family had donated one to them, during the last stages of her illness. Before that point, the Robert Willikins family had been boaters, and proud. Well, Robert had been proud. Hazel had spent enough time around the children of more respectable families to start wondering if boating really was anything to be proud about, which had served to make her all the more proud at times, and terribly insecure at others.

She twitched, brushing aside an unpleasant memory of that feeling… and found the fierce pride lurking behind it.

“Well, if you’ve no preference,” she said to Two, “let’s go swimming.”

“Is there anywhere to swim?”

“Well, we should avoid the river proper, because I’m rusty and it’s sure to have changed on me,” Hazel said. “But there’s a nice sheltered pool just south of the bridge, and then there’s a pond out by the north crossing.”

“Swimming in rural ponds isn’t safe,” Two said. “There can be all sorts of hazards under the surface.”

“What do you mean, rural?” Hazel said. “Just because it’s not a big square pool full of conjured water doesn’t mean it’s full of merrows and ghouls… though we will might to be on the lookout for freshwater crabs. They take a lot of killing, and they’re not very good eating by the second week.”

“Hazel, I don’t think the folks here approve of swimming,” Two said.

“We wouldn’t be doing it for their approval,” Hazel said. “Is that so wrong?”

“No,” Two said. “But would we be doing it for their disapproval?”

“Might as well do something to earn it,” Hazel said. “Something more than existing. Or not being Hon… Heather. Or stopping her from having a goblin friend. You know, I have a goblin friend. Sort of, anyway. Sort of a goblin and sort of a friend, I mean.”

“I don’t think Shiel would like being called sort of a goblin,” Two said.

“A kobold is a sort of goblin.”

“I am not certain that she’d agree.”

“You’re a good friend, Two, but you’re rubbish at arguments,” Hazel said. “Not like Shiel. And does anybody care that I have a sort-of goblin sort-of friend? No. They just want to know why I didn’t stop her… I’m supposed to keep her from making friends now? They just told me to keep her out of trouble. Well, I can’t imagine anywhere she’d get into less trouble than a goblin village. There’s nothing to drink, and no suitors to suit her. Anyway, it’s not like she went straight from uni to the bogs or ran away in the middle of the night. She came back here and announced her plans. Her mum helped her pack her bags, and as soon as she was bundled onto the coach, she turns to me and she says, ‘I hope you’re happy.'”

“I was there,” Two said. “And what she actually said was, ‘I hope you are well-pleased with yourself, Hazel Willikins.'”

“That’s what I said.”

“It’s semantically similar but not identical to what you said.”

“And I’m not happy,” Hazel said. “I’m not. I’ve never been happy in this town, save when I had a boat to leave it on. You know, I almost wish we’d been sent to keep an eye on Heather in goblin-ville, as dull as that’d be. Oru’s family has to be better than hers.”

“You have family here.”

“Just my father, and he’s… I’d like to get him out of here, but I’m not sure how much of him’s left that’s ‘him’ and not ‘here’,” Hazel said.

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yeah, well, if you’d have lived my life, it would,” Hazel said, and Two had no argument for that. “What day is it, today?”

“It’s Tuesday.”

“Tuesday the what-th?”

“The sixth,” Two said. “Andreas is visiting in two weeks and three days.”

“Don’t see why he couldn’t come earlier, or stay longer,” Hazel said.

“He has business to take care of.”

“What kind of business can’t wait a couple of weeks?”

“Most kinds,” Two said.

Hazel sighed.

“I’m not really mad at him, you know,” she said. “Or even missing him in particular, though I do miss him. What I really miss is different people… people with different thoughts, different ideas, different experiences. Even the ones I didn’t get on with. Especially the ones I didn’t get on with.”

“You miss Shiel,” Two said, nodding.

“I don’t mean just her,” Hazel said. “Everyone here gets on with each other, and that seems nice enough until the day comes when you don’t get on with just one of them… especially if they are a Callaway and you’re from off the river. And there’s less and less river folk all the time. Hardly anyone’s been through so far. When they sent me off to university, I thought… well, I thought I’d come back all worldly. Cosmopolitan. I’d have learned things and seen far-off places. I thought the Callaways would look at me like I was an adult, or even a person… or, you know, their kin. Not on the same level as they are, but in the same neighborhood.”

“You do want their approval,” Two said.

“I’m not greedy,” Hazel said. “I’d be happy with an ounce or two of it.”

“Do you approve of them?”

“Does it matter if I approve of them?” Hazel said. “I’m nobody here. They’re well-off, they’re respectable, and they’re going to be living it up under the high hill no matter what I think of them.”

“Isn’t the reverse also true?”

“Yeah, I’m not going to be living in the high hill no matter what they think of me.”

Two frowned slightly, her forehead wrinkling and her face twitching as she thought through what she was trying to say.

“I do not mean the exact reverse,” she said. “I mean that you will still be Hazel and you will still be all worldly and cosmopolitan and have a university education and friends no matter what they think of you.”

“Right,” Hazel said. “And that’s fine enough for me, out there in the wide world. But then every time I come back here, I’m right back in their little world and what I think doesn’t matter.”

“And out there, what they think doesn’t matter.”

“Right, but I’m just going to end up back here.”

“Why?” Two asked.

“Because… well…”

Two sat patiently while Hazel grappled with the realization.

“You know, I’ve decided what I want to do,” Hazel announced at length.

“What?” Two said.

“Open up some more rooms and get some of the other windows open, air this place out.”

“You said we shouldn’t use more rooms than we need for the two of us, since that just makes more work for the caretakers when we leave,” Two said.

“We will clean up after ourselves,” Hazel said. “We’ll leave everything better than we found it, and we won’t care that the Callaways of the world will want everything cleaned again anyway without so much as a glance, because obviously we wrecked the place… and if they don’t think that now, they will most definitely think it after the party we throw.”

“What party?”

“The one where we invite everyone in the shire, and everyone in the next shire, and put the word out up and down the river that everyone’s welcome,” Hazel said.

“That could be a lot of people to feed.”

“We won’t empty the stores,” Hazel said. “The kind of party I’m thinking of has more food the more people show… and honestly I’m not sure how many people will. There are less and less folk on the river, and even though everyone loves a party, the disapproval of the Callaways counts for a lot. Folks they wouldn’t give the time of day to will line up to lend the Callaways their pocketwatches.”

“I don’t know what that means. Hazel, do we have permission to do this?”

“Sign out front says ‘welcome travellers’. We’re just putting those words into action,” Hazel said. “You start opening shutters, I’ll go down to the banks and put up some riversign. If I remember it. Let the shire scowl… we might be throwing a party for the two of us, but by Owain, they’re going to know we threw one!”

Tales of MU is presented this month by Amy Amethyst.

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Winter snow arrives,
my hoodie/shawl combo fails.
I need a new coat.

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34 Responses to “OT: The Scowling of the Shire”

  1. siberian says:

    ook? wow am i really first? i love the combination of Two and Hazel. they bounce off each other so well!

    Current score: 1
  2. Erm says:

    What does the “x” in her signature stand for? I don’t remember it being in her name normally.

    Current score: 0
    • Think of it as a ligature for a word meaning “of”… this was the first time I wrote her signature out and having the house name by itself seemed odd, but she never pronounces a preposition so I made a pen-stroke that wouldn’t normally be pronounced.

      Edit to add: It possibly also contains information about her status within the house.

      Current score: 2
      • Kevin Brown says:

        I thought that was a typo myself, especially since I always figured the d’ in d’Wyr was an of similar to the french surname “Dubois” means “from the forest” with “du” being from and “bois” being the forest. In other words I always read Dee’s name as “Delia Daella of House Wyr.”

        That’s what I get for speaking more than one language.

        Current score: 1
        • It would be a heck of a typo to include the HTML notation for superscript. 😛

          The d’ in d’Wyr started its life as a preposition, but… well, how exactly does saying “I am from the Dubois family” in French differ from saying that one is from a family whose surname doesn’t have a preposition in its etymology? It doesn’t, obviously. It’s a Mount Mondel Hill situation.

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          • Kallio says:

            Reminds me of my issue with The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. My (very slight) knowledge of Spanish made me go “The the tar tar pits? What?”

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            • Luke Licens says:

              It’s full of steak, you see. 😛

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            • fka_luddite says:

              When I was living in New Mexico, it was always amusing to hear people refer to the Rio Grande river.

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            • Brenda says:

              Oh, and then there’s carne asada steak (roast meat steak) and queso quesado cheese (cheesy cheese cheese)…

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          • Stonefoot says:

            The same thing happens, sometimes, with acronyms, if people don’t know (or don’t remember) their origin. The worst one I’ve seen is “PIN”, which frequently becomes “PIN number”, sometimes “personal PIN number”, and reportedly the final stage “personal identification PIN number” has been sighted.

            Current score: 1
          • Erm says:

            Hopefully they won’t need to repeatedly stack on another “x” to the name!

            Current score: 0
            • Stonefoot says:

              I’d guess that the creeping ambiguity about “PIN” vs. “PIN number” in US English in 20 years or so would correspond to, oh, 2000 years or more in Elven culture. If it contains information about her status in the house, it might not happen until their social structure itself changes. And I wouldn’t even guess how long that might be!

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      • Mad Nige says:

        I know it’s a bit late to add to this, but I think a ‘Modifier letter small h with hook’ (Unicode 02B1) standing for ‘of the house’ would work well; also, in place of the tilde, ‘Modifier letter small gamma’ (Unicode 02E0) would give a more friendly symbol for ‘known to friends as’ (as I assume it is): making

        Delia Daellaʱd’Wyr,ˠDee

        Current score: 0
  3. Brenda says:

    I’m not getting what it is that Shiel has done…

    Sounds like one heckuva shindig comin’ up! I hope we get to see it!

    Current score: 0
    • fka_luddite says:

      I think it’s not what Shiel has done but that Heather (aka Honey) is spending the summer visiting her.

      Current score: 0
      • Rethic says:

        “You know, I almost wish we’d been sent to keep an eye on Heather in goblin-ville, as dull as that’d be. Oru’s family has to be better than hers.”

        She;s visiting Oru not Shiel.

        Current score: 0
  4. Dani says:

    So are there boatloads of Owains (not that most of them are anything like river folk, of course) or are they all an elaborate joke of one trickster god?

    Current score: 0
    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      That does seem to be the question. I’m betting on the latter… though, I’m not sure under what classifications he can be considered a god.

      Current score: 0
      • Abeo says:

        He can get away with claiming he is one. Not that he really seems the type to insist if he couldn’t, or maybe then he would?

        Current score: 1
    • Dragoness says:

      Did you read the OT when Callahan met Owain? I think that gives a fun clue as to just who this/these Owain guy(s) are/is.

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    • nemka says:

      Personally, I took the Callahan OT meeting with Owain, and his reference to his ‘brothers’ and the fact that he’s not letting/can’t let them know they’re not really his brothers,as an indication that he’s either created some false brothers or manipulated some people into thinkg their his brothers for his own purposes. Hopefully entertaining and mischievious purposes.

      Current score: 0
  5. Greenwood Goat says:

    Tips for Hazel: Make sure there’s plenty of punch. Make sure that it’s mildly alcoholic at most, and served at a suitable temperature for gulping. Make sure that you are the one staffing the punchbowl, and that you have plenty of cups. Make sure that the cups that you are going to serve to any Callaways that come are kept where they won’t be grabbed by accident, and that whatever you have juiced them with will not be visible before you ladle the punch in. Make sure also that whatever symptoms it produces will be delayed for at least a quarter of an hour, and it might be a good idea to vary the doses to produce differing effects and severities. If applicable, have Two on patrol so she can get people outside before they throw up. Make sure that your “innocent” expression is ballista-proof. Above all, make sure you have fun. It’s your party, after all! >:=)>

    Current score: 0
  6. Luke Licens says:

    Possible Typo Report:

    “She knows what a father is,” Two said. “But she has loss of privacy and I do not think all the clerics who read her letters do.

    “But she has loss of privacy” scans funny to me. It feels like there’s a word or two missing there. ‘has suffered a loss of privacy’ or ‘has a lack of privacy’, maybe?

    Current score: 0
    • fka_luddite says:

      It’s an unusual construction, but not wrong.

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      • cnic says:

        It feels rather British, which the gnomes do in general. It scanned better for me saying priv-acy /pɹɪvɑsi/ instead of pri-vacy /pɹaivɑsi/.

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  7. Zathras IX says:

    Just like her friend ŦΨØ
    Delia Daella wants
    To do what she’s told

    Current score: 1
    • Lunaroki says:

      And there perhaps we see the basis of why this unlikely duo are such good friends. 🙂

      Current score: 0
    • nemka says:

      I think Delia Daella wants to do what her conscience dictates more than what she’s told – I’m guessing a part of her knew well enough her stunt with Steff and the potion wouldn’t be strictly within accepted perameters.

      Current score: 1
  8. P says:

    Im really loving the new storylines.

    Current score: 0
  9. Amy jo says:

    The Sahara Desert. 😉

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  10. Anonymoose says:

    Hazel and Two should buy a big riverboat and transport people and things up and down a big river somewhere, like in the old days on the Mississippi.

    Current score: 0
  11. Majikkani_Hand says:

    I’m glad Two got to the reptile/amphibian thing before I got to the comments. XD

    Current score: 0