This post has the following content warnings:
Feb 23, 2019 12:30 AM
Taliar in Evil Arda
Permalink

His healing aura reaches farther every day. The radius cleared two and a half miles last week; if he keeps pushing, maybe he'll make it to three before the year is out.

So four times a day, at every stop on the tour, he stands still and closes his eyes and focuses his whole self on extending the light of his soul as far as it will reach.

Golden light floods the city, wall to wall, basement to tower-top, spilling out past the gates and streaming up into the sky to make jewelry of the clouds. The light is threaded with delicate spiderweb strands of silver, woven with misty curls of pale blue; all together, it lends an exquisite beauty to everything it touches. Within its range, it chases shadows around corners and blooms like billowing smoke, finding its way under closed doors and between drawn curtains, until after only a few seconds every part of the city from the open streets to the remotest of closets is covered in a blanket of light. It's nearly tangible, felt as much as seen, a warm and comforting presence.

And everywhere it goes, it carries a message, an offer, a gift. Health: stand straighter, breathe easier, let the years fall away. It soothes pain, heals injury, cures disease, brings strength and grace to all who want them. Lost limbs grow anew. Scars fade away. Different people have different ideas of what it means to be perfectly healthy; some people find that the light makes their skin clearer and their teeth straighter, while others keep scars or wrinkles. No one is ever changed in a way they truly don't want.

Where Taliar stands, on a balcony overlooking a crowded market square, the light swirls around him in an intricate dance of blue and silver and gold. Proximity has hardly any effect on the strength of the healing, but it does make the lightshow even prettier; and of course, where most people within the aura's range get only a vague sense of its owner's personality, anyone with a direct line of sight to the shining pendant in his hands gets the full force of it.

Some people have subtle souls, that broadcast their personality shyly, gradually, piece by hesitant piece. Taliar is not one of those people. With his aura at full strength, his soul blazes like the sun.

Here is a person whose fondest ambition is to bring life and health and joy and safety and knowledge and fulfillment to everyone he can possibly reach. A person who lives by extremes, intervals of boundless energy alternating with intervals of helpless depression. A person who takes well-deserved pride in his ability to go over, under, around, or through any obstacle that stands between him and his goals, and immense joy in using that skill to help others, when he finds someone faced with a problem they can't overcome on their own. A person of unshakeable integrity, who abhors malicious deception, who will move mountains to keep his word. Clever, charming, intelligent, insightful, occasionally even wise. Irreplaceable as a friend, and not bad even as an enemy; he believes very strongly in mercy and second chances and finding a way for all sides to come out of a conflict better off than they went in. But when it's really necessary, when no combination of charisma and lateral thinking and raw cosmic power can convince someone to stop causing harm, he is willing to go to war if that's what it takes.

He's so caught up in the magic, he doesn't even notice when the world shifts around him and a different one takes its place. It's a little disorienting, and it takes another half-second or so to expand his aura back out to full range, but at first it just feels like he got dizzy and lost concentration for a moment. Not worth opening his eyes over, not when he can take back his focus and push the edges of the light out a little farther, then a little farther than that...

Total: 3471
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

The first thing he notices is the lights; they're dazzling, stunning, beautiful in the way things have not been in a long time, may never be again - at first he thinks somehow a Silmaril, though he can see the man in front of him perfectly well and see that it's no Silmaril he's holding, because that's the only association he has with that kind of beauty. 

 

The Enemy can take beautiful forms, but there is something about this form that screams not an Enemy. He tells the guards to stand back. He watches, silently, breathing it in, so beautiful, so soothing -

- not wise, to relax -

"Excuse us," he says, "who are you, and what magic does that work?"

Permalink

The light falters, drawing in and dimming down, from city-wide blazing brilliance to a soft glow that fills only a single room. The stranger opens his eyes and blinks, startled, only getting more startled as he takes in the details of his new environment.

He doesn't seem to have heard of the concept of private thoughts, so it's perfectly clear that he doesn't understand a word Maitimo says, and equally clear that when he replies he's saying, "Sorry, what—? Where am I?"

(He's small. Human, probably, but an unusually healthy human - not much of a surprise given the city-sized healing aura - and an unusually short one. He does not recognize the people around him as Elves, just notices the height and the prettiness and assorted unfamiliar cosmetic details - doesn't recognize the language or the architecture or the clothing, not as any of half a hundred examples he thinks to compare it all to. He concludes that he is very, very far from home, and has no idea how he got here. Somewhere in the back of his mind he wonders if this is in some way the Emperor's fault.)

Permalink

HI, he says. You're in Himring, in the palace, and appeared here at random. Can you explain the magic and assure us it's not going to hurt anyone - there are a lot of people in the range it's affecting -

Permalink

Um? he thinks, confused and slightly wary but adapting rapidly to the idea of mental communication. I'm Dawn-shining Taliar and that was my healing aura... I guess there's no reason why you should recognize either of those concepts any more than I recognize your palace... it's not going to hurt anyone, though, it's kind of exactly the opposite of that. Where do I need to begin the explanation? My soul in particular, soul artifacts in general...? I don't see any soulbearers, but that doesn't necessarily mean you don't have them.

Permalink

We don't have them. That'd be a good starting point.

Permalink

Okay, let me think - this mind-talking thing we're doing, does it always have to be structured sort of like language, or can I send complete thoughts?

Permalink

Thoughts work fine.

Permalink

Great, that'll make explaining soulbearers much more convenient.

And it implies that this friendly strange probably-a-king of the beautiful pointy-eared tall people might just be able to read Taliar's entire mind, but whatever, if that's true it'll just speed up the process of demonstrating his trustworthiness.

People in my world have souls, and we can manifest them into artifacts. This is mine.

He lifts up the pendant slightly, displaying its fluid abstract bird-in-flight shape and soft golden glow streaked with blue and silver. Even without his active attention flinging its light out as far as it will reach, it still shines beautifully.

For the rest of the explanation, he abandons the structure of words and works directly in thoughts and memories.

A person's soul is the expression and embodiment of their self, their personality, their flaws and virtues and hopes and dreams. Externalized into an artifact, it gains magic that is both functionally and aesthetically linked to those things. Someone who values honesty and communication is likely to get magic that aids them in communicating honestly; someone who values strength and victory in battle might get destructive warlike magic; someone who loves flowers might get an artifact shaped like a flower, or magic for helping plants grow, or both. Your artifact can change if your personality changes; neither its appearance nor its functions are static. But the changes are usually gradual, occurring over the course of years, months, weeks, or at minimum days.

Once you manifest your soul, you can't dispel the manifested artifact and put it back where it came from; you're stuck with it for life. It will always broadcast an accurate sense of your personality to anyone who sees it. Some artifacts have also been known to make sounds, and they carry the same information. If anyone touches your artifact, that's very bad news for you: it's overwhelmingly, incapacitatingly painful, in a way that no one who's experienced it can even manage to coherently describe afterward.

The nature of your soul's magic depends on your own nature, but its strength and scope depends on your actions. To exalt your soul is to cultivate virtues you admire, act in accordance with your values, and generally strive to be the best version of yourself, the person you most aspire to be. To debase your soul is to do the opposite. The more you exalt your soul, the more its power grows; the more you debase it, the more it weakens. And you will know when you do either of these things; your soul gives you a sense of what it needs. If you do something that exalts or debases it very dramatically, gaining or losing a lot of power at once, it can even react in a way that's outwardly visible.

Normally, it's not considered safe to manifest your soul until you're twenty years old. Taliar did it at seventeen, six months ago. There were circumstances. He can get into the politics later; it's not directly relevant to this explanation.

Relevant things: The three main themes of Taliar's magic are integrity, problem-solving, and exaltation. The integrity theme doesn't give him a lot of direct active abilities; he can detect lies, but it's a passive power, showing up when he needs it and subsiding when he doesn't, rather than answering to his conscious will. Problem-solving is a highly flexible theme: with a three-day lead time, he can pick up whatever set of magical powers his soul finds most appropriate for dealing with the situation at hand, whatever it is. And exaltation is both the source of his healing aura and the reason his healing aura can fill an entire city. Taliar is deeply and powerfully invested in helping and uplifting the people around him; his soul responds to that by magnifying its own power in proportion to the exaltation of his friends and acquaintances, regardless of whether or not they themselves are soulbearers, an unprecedented arrangement that makes him the most powerful soulbearer in history by a factor of at least a hundred.

Did that all come through okay? Any questions?

Permalink

It is....almost too good to be true, someone showing up with war-winning powers and a complete guide to his personality and how to get along with him. That came through very clearly, thank you.

 

We're at war with an evil god. And he sends everything he knows of Melkor, every escaped prisoner he's spoken to, every orc, every battle, every battalion marching off to war - 

Permalink

...wow. Wow.

I'm going to want to hear about this from more than one person just to be absolutely sure, but - that sounds like exactly the kind of problem I'm made to solve. Except I'm not sure if I'm up to the task yet. I've never fought a god before; there aren't any at home. Can you introduce me to large numbers of exceptionally virtuous and fulfilled people, or people who have the potential to be exceptionally virtuous and fulfilled?

Permalink

...yes, definitely, though our understanding of virtuous and fulfilled might be different than yours, being a different species - will that be a problem? 

Permalink

He shrugs. I guess we'll find out. 'Virtuous and fulfilled' isn't quite the thing anyway, the thing is 'exalted and personally compatible with me such that we can be good friends', but 'virtuous and fulfilled' is a reasonable summary under most circumstances. Exaltation of the soul is a surprisingly difficult concept to pin down and it rounds off to virtue pretty well most of the time.

Permalink

The war's been going on for four hundred years. Those are hard circumstances under which to feel - exalted, or fulfilled, or anything in that vein - but we're fighting it for a good reason, and when we win it we can build a good world, and I am very hopeful that we can find lots of people who are compatible with you in that way. 

Permalink

There are plenty of people who have no trouble at all exalting their souls while at war. It was kind of a big problem at home, a couple thousand years before I was born.

He doesn't explicitly send the surrounding context, but it's easy to pick up on the part where an army of soulbearers fighting an army of soulbearers has been repeatedly proven to end badly for everyone involved.

Permalink

Can it be learned? Is it likely the Enemy could do it? Because if so, you need to learn to guard your thoughts quickly.

Permalink

...it would be pretty bad if your Enemy became a soulbearer, yeah - although maybe not as bad as you'd expect; approximately, the more evil someone is, the less powerful their soul - I'd expect that if it was possible for people in this world to do it, someone would've figured it out already, but I can tell you how and you can have someone try and then you'll know within a day or so. And I guess in the meantime I can learn how to guard my thoughts.

(Looks like he was right about the mind-reading being more general than it initially appeared. He can just hear Esarkan dryly asking him why he's trusting this stranger so thoroughly so quickly, but then again, Esarkan would know that better than almost anyone - Esarkan guessed ahead of time that Taliar would have his unique relationship with exaltation; Esarkan is deeply aware of how Taliar relates to people and how well he can make it work for him.)

Permalink

For anyone accustomed to interacting with people who have it it's purely communicative, but if you've never heard of it before then you're likely keeping your thoughts public by default. I can tell everyone to stop listening but then we shall have to confront the language barrier.

 

And even a weakened Vala-soul might be a problem, since they're so much in the first place. 

Permalink

Might be. I don't know anything about Valar.

His guess is that the muchness of Valar won't translate to a more powerful starting point, but he's not confident enough in that guess to articulate it. ... He has had access to this method of communication for all of two minutes and he's already going to miss it dearly if he learns how to restrict himself to sending only the thoughts he chooses - is there a way to restrict himself to only sending thoughts to the people he chooses, instead, or some combination of those things, what's the mechanism here...?

Permalink

That'd be possible, yes. What you do is pick a metaphor, and you could pick one conducive to keeping your thoughts private only from strangers and the Enemy...and he explains how it works.

Permalink

That's pretty straightforward, I guess...

He ponders metaphors, and after a few seconds he settles on a house: thoughts he wants to make public are announced at the gate, people he wants to share all his thoughts with are invited in, and if he wants to share more than the public allotment with someone but not quite give them everything, he can send them a letter. His thoughts vanish for an instant before he imagines Maitimo into the figurative house. Did that work?

Permalink

Yes, that's the idea. You generally have to practice maintaining the mental habit for a while before it's present consistently; I can ask people to let you know if you slip up.

Permalink

Thanks. I'll keep in practice.

And in a few days - maybe less, it seems like it would be a pretty tiny power - his soul will probably start enforcing the boundary for him regardless of how well he's keeping it up himself.

Permalink

Incredibly useful, that. I appreciate how you're using the telepathy - it does a lot for trust, means we'll notice faster if there are misunderstandings getting in our way -

Permalink

My thoughts exactly, he says, laughing a little at the not-quite-a-pun.

Permalink

So to-dos: get you a chance to introduce yourself? Osanwë range is ten miles or so by default, or I can tell everyone within three hundred miles enough about you they'll know you well enough to tune in, and then we can figure out how to help you work with everyone you need to pull this off. You wanted a chance to confirm this: do you want to go outside the kingdom to do that, you could verify that the Dwarves also think very poorly on the Enemy but they're a couple hundred miles away and the language barrier'd be a real problem there...

Total: 3471
Posts Per Page: