Travelogue: Sydney

Every time I come to Sydney, I understand it less. The streets are more confusing, the construction louder, the traffic meaner, noisier and more dangerous. The poverty sicker, the decay more rife, the wealth more rampant, the messes larger and more ingrained.

But I think I get it now – it’s supposed to be like that.

In Brisbane, we see a problem and we fix it, or rather we knock it down and build a road or a block of flats on it. In Sydney, when they have a problem they just go around it, and wait a hundred years. It’s a very old European approach, appropriate for a city that never quite escaped the 19th century, and doesn’t ever intend to. And the result is confusion, is a kind of madness, and that’s the point. It doesn’t work, but it endures, and you get by anyway, and maybe eventually you get into the rhythm of it. You learn to appreciate the jungle, instead of wishing you were back in the zoo.

That’s the best analogy. In Brisbane, we keep everything nice and segregated and peaceful. Cars over there, people over there, and only very rarely do they meet. Our roads are wide and straight and lead far away down glistening highways to other vistas; Sydney’s roads snarl inwards and around and lead to dead ends and piazzas and trafic jams we would never tolerate up north. Your first reaction is to recoil in fear, to never own a car, to never drive through the madness, nor even try to cross a road if you have to. Even after coming here so often, I still forget and dart back from the roads and the fierce honks and darting motions of the hungry cars. But you learn, eventually, that that’s just the way. Here, unlike the quiet north, predator and prey live side by side, and we all drink at the same waterhole. A little nervously, sure. but with an understanding. It’s not safe, but it’s social. It’s not quiet, but it’s not silent either. The rich devour the poor, the cars devour the people and the roads devour the cars and the houses devour the roads and the houses devour each other to get to the harbour, but if you can stand the violence of it all, it’s a living system. Desperately, savagely alive. And in any kind of comparison, Brisbane is dead as a corpse.

The difference between the two cities is the difference between the dead and the dying, which is all the difference in the world. The dead are inert, staid, and dull; the dying thrashing, wild, passionate, terrifying, violent, ugly, brutal and disturbing – and alive, so very, very alive.

If you took West End and crossed it with Chinatown Mall, and made it 5am on a Saturday night which is also New Years Eve, you’d get for just a second how alive Sydney is, all the time, almost everywhere. And how different and strange and ever-moving. You see more cultures, more lifestyles, more types of people in a walk through the city then in a hundred years in Brisbane, and it doesn’t fade as you go out. I once remarked that Sydney’s CBD is what you always imagine New York would be like, but it isn’t. In the same way, King Street, from Redfern to Newtown, is what you always wish Portobello Road would be like, and it isn’t anymore. It’s good then, for those of us with too-vivid imaginations, that we have Sydney instead, and we can walk down King St, as I did today, and see that kaleidoscope and chaos, to see enough communities with enough identities to actually clash, or at least bump against each other and move back into the turbulent stream.

Sure, there was a point where the junk stores turned into antique stores, and then into retro stores. The flophouses gave way to student digs and then to fix-them-ups. But the line was never clear, and sometimes, it happened in the very same store, or house.  The seedy end was full of nervous trans ladies drinking tinnies and the better end full of new gay dads having coffee but the food was all the same and the churches inbetween were full to bursting. Schools sit a block from brothels, but both were empty because there was too much to do on a Sunday. The city was the wilds, but King Street is the waterhole, and everything is permissible, weird and straight, poor and – well, middle class. The rich by any logical standard. The very wealthy were elsewhere, having won by leaving the jungle. But everyone else was still here, still amongst it.

They say God drinks at the Sando – the old Sandringham Pub –  but that might just be because they let anyone in there – or because he knows he can get a seat, because few come back. It’s dying, and they’re trying to save it, according to the rally in the park I walked through, but I’m told they’re always trying to save it because it’s always dying. Welcome to Sydney – still alive but dying. Dying – but still alive. So alive. And coming out swinging, throwing punches to the stars with broken, bloody fists. Not done until the fat lady stops singing, and she’s got an opera house to fill.

 

 

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A musing on my two favourite genres

Just the other day, while watching Shakespeare Do The Thing He Does in Two Gentleman of Verona, I suddenly realised that my two favourite genres, farce and caper, are really very similar. Farce at its best works on the audience knowing more than the characters (Bob is hidden behind the screen THE WHOLE TIME) and Caper works on the audience knowing explicitly less than the characters (Bob switched the suitcases before the whole thing began).

It’s no wonder I love those genres, being a roleplayer, because the main reason I like roleplaying is it causes an interesting interface to occur between character, author and audience. That’s also why I like breaking the fourth wall, too. But the interesting thing about both farce and caper is you can’t actually every really roleplay them successfully, because they both depend on the audience having different information from the characters, and the fundamental principle of roleplaying is the audience are the characters at the same time.

Now sure, you can separate them in your head, but it’s not quite the same thing. It can never be. And some narrative/authorial-focussed rpgs have worked well to keep them separate, which is awesome. Again, this is one reason I adore Smallville: not only can you have “I have no idea my brother is trying to betray me, so I trust him completely” written on your actual character sheet, but the system heavily rewards you putting yourself in a situation where your complete trust is totally reversed – that reversal powers you up immensely. If there was ever a system built for farce, it is Smallville.

And of course, my love of those two genres is why I find it silly when hard-core immersionists insist that authorial mechanics totally destroy all sense of immersion. I can watch a stage and feel everything the characters experience as acutely as if I was them – yet also see the stage and the actors on it. I can see a simple cloak and know it makes a man invisible to all the other characters on stage, even though real people can see him clearly – because we can. I know stage left is a distant island while five feet from stage right which is Venice. And I know the author has set up a familiar, well-structured farcical device while at the same time feeling every ache of character embarrassment and shock as they feel nothing but chaos swim between their feet.

It’s not quite the same thing, maybe. They do say that if you see the author, it always pulls you out of the story. Unless you’re a writer, of course, because then you can never stop seeing the story. And if you’re like me, someone who you can shift back and forth between the fourth wall as if on a bungee cord. For those of us like that, authorial mechanics can only improve immersion, not destroy it.

If anything a lack of authorial control makes things more like real life – and I can’t believe in that, it’s far too facile.

Pantheon, Episode Four

Setting stuff established: Those who abandon their children (or do so implicitly by abandoning their spouses) are likened to Zyz, who abandoned his children because of his crime. If such mortal folk do not wish to flee into exile, they may find work and redeem themselves somewhat by becoming priests of Zyz, who are the gravediggers to the priests of Always’ undertakers.

 

Previously on: not only do we see Ix making the Ixola, but before that, from Episode 2. When Korak drops the defeated Ix into Aristeia’s arms and warned her about him – Aristeia says “he would never hurt me”. OR WOULD HE?

 

Prologue: The Return again, just as we saw it in Episode 2 – Korak returning from Cold, Aristeia rescued, Kalakaq defeated – only this time it isn’t about Always’ point of view but Ix’s. He watches from the shadows, jealous and confused by his brother’s return. What draws him out is seeing the girl he has brought back, her raiment as wild as his. He greets his brother then without words hands Aristeia the falcon, which until then was just the grouse, it could not fly. The two wild children need no words – Aristeia throws the falcon into the sky and the soars on its new wings – and the troubled girl smiles for the first time.

 

Skip forward a few years. Ulyuq returned from the Cold to stalk the land. He has been defeated, but given Aristeia’s history, Ix calls her to his forest to show her a gift he has made for her: The Sacred Pool, a strange and magical place deep in the Forst Infinite where Aristeia is invisible to all who walk Godhome, be they God or Kalakaq. Ix promises “No one, not even the stars in the sky will see you here; you are always safe.” To prove it, when the mole dared to poke his nose through the wall of trees around the pool, Ix blinds it and curses it to burrow beneath the ground, never seeing Aristeia’s sky.

 

CREDITS!

PANTHEON, SERIES ONE, EPISODE FOUR: “WOUNDS”

 

Always awakens in an eyrie. The Ixola does not eat her, but prevents her from leaving. It’s frustrating, but she’s alive. Back on the battlefield, Korak tells Skoh to get his best men so they can go kill it. Skoh wonders how since it may not be trackable and their weapons bounced off it. Korak says “We will find the beast and kill it because it is what I MUST DO.” Damn he’s macho.

 

In the Forest Infinite, Smith is continuing to yell at Ix. Ix points out that he was going to listen to Smith and his planny plans, but Smith’s plans are stupid, whereas so far, Ix is two for two. Threatening to open the pit exposed Korak’s true motives, and making the Ixola saved Always. Smith explodes with rage and storms out. Ankar arrives soon after, because she, like Smith, thinks Ix isn’t moving things forward. Ix says things are in flux, he is not of Order, he can’t make things all neat like Ankar wants. She tells him to up his game, hinting that if he doesn’t she’ll find another way, and he won’t share in the spoils when Always takes the throne. Ix doesn’t care about such boons, but if he was smarter he might be afraid of what the Lady Order could do to the Wild…

 

Korak sends word to Aristeia that he is fixing things, and the rain eases enough to begin an ascent into the mountains after the beastie. In the eyrie, Always manages to shoo it away, just in time for her father, Rokan to turn up. He doesn’t quite get the “wager” going on, but reminds her that, mortal or not, she is noble-blooded and should always act like it. Be a goddess, whatever the circumstances. Always is heavily bucked up and sets out to do just that. Moments later, when Korak crests the peak to “save” her, she tells him he really needn’t have bothered – she knows now what she has to do. She has to die as a mortal. Korak doesn’t like the idea but is impressed again by her strength and says “okay, but don’t do it alone”.

 

Meanwhile, Smith has run to the Endless Plain to see Aristeia (Ix agreeing it would be best for Smith to explain to her about how he meant no harm, although of course Smith doesn’t do that). Aristeia stops short of shooting the messenger, and takes control of the situation, snatching the mind of the Ixola away from Ix. It returns to the eyrie, but curls up and sleeps. The danger past, Aristeia remembers that like ages ago (the start of Ep 3) she was infuriated with Smith for breaking Always’ experiment. Smith responds by inventing humanism: humans are not playthings to be ruled and directed into little games, or owned by anyone. All the Gods should do is inspire them. Smith even admits he REGRETS becoming a god because it was, in the end, only because of a game Always was playing with him.

 

“So why are you still here?” demands Aristeia.

“Because things are worse without me,” is his response.

 

Back at the eyrie, Korak takes a moment to tell Always how impressed he is with her (more bucking up). Everything is going swimmingly until Korak realises his men aren’t here yet because Ix’s wild nature caused a rockslide to cut them off….and hey, Ix has just realised Aristeia has left the beast sleeping calmly. He takes over the beastie’s mind and suddenly it rears up, spitting with fury and rage. And before anyone can react, it strikes! Korak’s reflexes mean he rolls clear. Always, keen to help, moves in front of him. The fangs bite deep into Always’ mortal flesh. Korak draws his Korix and chops heartily at the beast’s neck, but it flies away, cowed before it dies. Ix is…somewhat freaked out by hurting Always.

 

During the fight, Smith appeared and snatched Always away, taking her to her high temple in Yave to be healed. Not just out of concern, of course, but to stop the two of them being together. When Korak turns back from the battle, he finds no sign of his betrothed and assumes she is dead (and her mortal form has apparated).

 

AD BREAK!

 

We return to something completely different from the shocking clashes of before – Dorabus and Lika having a domestic scene. Lika watches her predictable, clumsy husband, thinking about how Smith was trouble but, as he said to her what has her life been without trouble. She makes a decision, and leaves to “go for a walk”….

 

Korak, meanwhile, finding his wife not in Godhome, fears she has been stolen by some force or is trapped in the Underworld. He storms into the Brass Palace and tells his legions to ready themselves for battle, probably against Sky. Aristeia comes down and Korak demands to know what her creature was doing. She explains it was Ix’s doing. Smith arrives (he was always there) and suggests Always might be in Zyz’ realm of Toleken below and that they go there together.

 

Before they set off, however, Korak gets word from Inikaya, messeneger of the Gods, about the true situation, because when Korak first went to earth he set Inikaya to watch Smith and Smith appeared as himself when he took Always to the temples. Korak decides to still go with Smith though, thinking that for once he has the upper hand on the Trickster.

 

We get our first good look at Toleken and the souls within it as the two descend, and they discuss Zyz’ exile. Smith suggests that Rokan was unjust, and broke the five as an unjust ruler, but this offenders Korak’s sense of loyalty. “You talk of reforging bonds, Smith, yet all you seem to do is break them”. Smith explains again his humanistic ideals of leaving the humans alone, and as above, having no ruler. It is better than replacing the Three with an equally flawed Five, which may repeat the sins of the past (ie Zyz).

 

The reunion between father and son (first time since Smith married Lika) is stifled but not stony. Always is not in Toleken so the topic turns to justice and philosophy again.

 

Zyz: And what did you do as a mortal, my son?

Korak: I fought a terrible battle! I climbed a high mountain! I slew a great beast!

Zyz: Oh.

Korak: I am a powerful god, I was a powerful mortal.

Zyz: But would you be a just king?

Korak: Would any king be just, in your eyes?

Zyz: A rule must be founded on more than strength, son.

Korak: You’d rather it be founded on lies and betrayal?

 

Zyz flinches. Smith notes that Korak said much the same thing to him earlier. Zyz says he is not a betrayal, and Smith pushes Korak to see that if his father is telling the truth, Rokan acted unjustly. Zyz wonders if his son will let him return to the surface, if he is king. Korak says he cannot unless Zyz explains his betrayal of Rokan. Zyz says he cannot, and so Korak says then he cannot trust him, and leaves to seek his betrothed elsewhere.

 

(For those who came in late: Zyz was exiled for the crime of stealing Rokan’s chaotic essence. However the thief was actually Ix and Zyz took the blame to save his son.)

 

Speaking of Always, she wakes up to find herself being tended in the temple. The poison isn’t killing her but the wound is deep. Always insists she go find Yeqawa and fix things, so decides to leave the temple and find her, despite her wounds. It is a dangerous and humbling thing to do, and her piety and dedication leaves an impact on the temple nurse who helps her (Hiamahe). After a while, she gets exhausted of walking and invents riding on beasts, something the Volanyi don’t do yet. She finds an oxen and sets off on its back, back to the battleground.

 

Back in Toleken, Smith stays to talk to his once-ally. He complains about Ix as a poor ally in his plan to stop Korak’s ambition, but Zyz says he can’t school Ix. Smith presses Zyz to tell him the secret about his “betrayal” but Zyz refuses. Smith says “I can’t intercede if I don’t have the information”. Zyz replies “I never asked you to intercede”.

 

Denied, Smith goes to leave, only to have the door slam open, hiding him from view, as Ix charges in. After running across Godhome and finding no Always and terrified he killed her, Ix too has come to the underworld to look for her. Their reunion is much colder and is full of subtext. Zyz accuses his son of being too much of destruction and chaos, and nothing of love. Ix tells his father to look around him, and see what love led him to – these dismal caves beneath the earth. Smith wonders what that means, exactly, as Ix storms off.

 

Korak meets Always on the road and tells her to stop being stupid and become a Goddess again. She tells him it is important. She says he has to make Skoh apologise as well, and he refuses, angry. He storms back to the Endless Plain, frustrated and not understanding. Not understood, Always cries into her cow.

 

Later, at the Sacred Pool, we find Ix dwelling on Zyz’ words about love. He HAS hurt people, and now is trying to make up for it by sprucing up the pool for its owner. Aristeia appears behind him and he swears to her he meant no offence by harming the eagle, but she refuses to believe him. “What can I do to prove you can still trust me?” he says. “You have to figure that out for yourself,” she says.

 

Tag scenes: Aristeia returns to sky, comforted by Teyamaq. Always clinging sadly to her oxen. Korak slumps onto the Brass Throne, alone and frustrated. Smith walks back to the battlefield too, taking time out to crush a sapling beneath his feet, no longer willing to ally with Ix. Meanwhile, Ix, finally realising he has Gone Too Far, throws the Ixola into the Pit so it will no longer hurt anyone or offend Aristeia.

 

ROLL CREDITS!

 

Epiologue: At the Pit, vines extend down from when Ix tried to open the Pit two episodes ago. Alongside them, claw marks now score the earth. Nearby, in a tiny village, two guardsmen ponder how suddenly cold it is. And then something bestial and monstrous strikes from the darkness…

 

Pantheon, Episode 3

The continuing stoooooooooory of some Gods who are wrecking shit up.

Setting information we glean: In the World of the Volanyi, marriage aka Joining is pledged in front of a priest of Always (she being in charge of love and death and all), with hands joined, palm to palm. Marriage is a ritual focussed on child-rearing as opposed to child-BEARING, in the sense that parentage is less of an issue than who will raise the child. Always believes that preparing a child for love and death requires two people (of either gender) not one. Those who create a child that is not protected by such a bonding are shunned, and children who are abandoned often become priests of Always to ensure the mistake is not repeated.

Prologue: We see Smith and Lika having their Joining ceremony, with all the gods in attendance – even Korak and Ix, bristling at the newcomer, trying their best not to tell their younger sister Lika she is making a huge mistake. Then we cut forward to Lika and Smith’s marriage dissolving. Smith says that she knew who he was when they got married, and she says that that’s the problem (I think).

ROLL CREDITS!

PANTHEON, SERIES ONE EPISODE THREE: SO ABOVE

When last we left our Gods and their mortals, Skoh was supposed to be making the beast with two backs with Yeqawa, but Smith had got their first. Meanwhile, Always has decided that she too will take mortal form to prove she can do it and thus is worthy of ruling the Five. She appears in the market places and sends word to Aristeia and Korak at their respective temples to let them know what she has done. As she is walking the streets, however, she sees “Skoh” leaving Yeqawa’s pavilion…and then sees the real Skoh arriving. Always tries to give chase but lose Smith in the crowd. Skoh responds by calling Yeqawa names and heading straight back to his battlefield.

Meanwhile, Inikaya sends word to Aristeia that Dorabus needs to see her. Poor old Dorabus, the bronzed, muscled buffoon who is in charge of Agriculture, is still chained to his plough, as Smith tricked him to be. This causes some house damage as he tries to clean up for Aristeia, but all he knows is his best girl walked out on him and he can’t understand why. Korak wishes to talk to Aristeia about keeping watch over Always, but can’t find her in the Sky, and Inikaya tells him she’s at Dorabus’, so he joins in the commiserations when he arrives.

Meanwhile, Ix has a visit from Lika. She tells him she’s left Dorabus, he says that makes sense, he was beneath her. Then she says she wants to go back to Smith, and he says that’s stupid because he is ALSO beneath her. Lika says that Ix was always a big bully trying to run her life and Ix tells her to shut up because he knows better than her, which is why he IS trying to run her life because if she was so smart she wouldn’t be here right now talking about how screwed up her life is. Lika slaps Ix’s face and runs away crying. Ix, furious, goes to find Always hoping she can talk some marriage-sense into his sister.

Always isn’t on the Endless Plain so Ix heads over to see if Dorabus has seen her, and encounters Aristeia and Korak. Ix and Korak (once again) have a massive argument about who is going to go and see Always.

Korak: I’m going to see Always!

Ix: No, dammit, I’m going to see Always!

Korak: Well, we’re BOTH going to see her then!

Ix: Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!

Korak: I’m not telling you what to do, you’re telling ME what to do!

Ix: No I’m not, I’m just saying I’m not going with you!

Korak: Well I’m going to see Always!

Ix: Fine, well you can come with me if you want to, but I’m not going!

So Korak goes to find Always, fearing she might be in danger on the mortal plane. Even more furious, Ix goes back to his forest to brood. Smith shows up and Ix decides not to tell him Lika is in the forest. The two scheme some more about how they are going to hurt Korak, now that he has become mortal, and once again, Ix says he has plans and tries to hide the giant monster he’s been building behind some trees. Smith again appeases Ix’s Stress, but the jig is up when Aristeia comes looking for Lika and Ix proves to be a terrible liar. Aristeia goes and comforts Lika, telling her about how terribly Dorabus misses her. During this conversation, they talk about marriage and how Always is down on the mortal plane. Aristeia says she can never do that, bound as she is to sky, but Lika, Goddess of Knowledge and Tradition, assures the sky goddess there is a way.

Smith then joins the ladies and takes his ex-wife to the Endless Plain to reminisce – and to send her back to where she belongs, which they both know is with Dorabus. In the end, they understand each other pretty well. Meanwhile, Always has gone looking for Skoh to fix this terrible situation. She joins a band of men heading to the front of Skoh’s empire building, and we learn more about how the Volanyi fight and prepare to fight. That night, Korak joins the men and women around the fire and he and Always have a brief chat about all sorts of things, including Korak trying to explain to Always about how battle works and how to bind wounds. They begin to actually fall for each other, rather than just being betrothed.

Next morning brings the battle, and Korak and Always realize they’ve made a terrible mistake: Skoh is leading the OPPOSING army. Very soon, now-mortal Korak meets his greatest champion on the battlefield. Sensing a test, Skoh attacks in full fury, and Korak, finally learning a lesson about humility, decides to not kill his champion and tells his warrior to stand down before anybody gets killed. (This act impresses the hell out of Smith and Ix who are observing, although neither of them want to admit it.) Skoh takes the moment to inform his God that the thing about him visiting Yeqawa was wrong, she was with another guy, and the Trickster at that. (Skoh, like all of Korak’s champions is charged to hunt and kill the Trickster, wherever he may lurk, a holy charge each champion approaches differently). Korak begins to see that Smith’s idea of a fair experiment is pretty askew, as indeed might be his idea of a fair challenge.

Meanwhile in Godhome, Smith, Aristeia and Ix only know that their siblings are in battle, and begin to panic – although for different reasons. Smith is worried that without him there to mess things up, Korak might be doing a good job of being a mortal and impressing gods and mortals alike. Ix and Aristeia are worried that Always could get hurt. Aristeia decides to fly down and keep watch, bringing up wind and rain. Ix, fearing for the half-cousin he always idolised being crushed in what he now realises is half his plan, decides to Solve Things directly – he takes his giant bear-snake monster and – snatching an eagle from the sky for the magic – gives it wings, and sends it to the battle field to scoop up Always and save the day.it will mess you up

Of course, Ix is master of all things that run and crawl – he is NOT the master of the birds of the air, and taking wings off an eagle makes Aristeia FLIP OUT. A gigantic storm breaks on the battlefield, and a terrifying monster – the Ixola – swoops down through the darkness and lightning. In the chaos, it escapes with Always. Korak swears vengeance as it flies away. Always screams in fear and passes out. Aristeia screams in rage at her realm defied. Smith screams in anger at Ix for ruining his plans. And Ix smiles, because he fixed everything…although, looking down at the eagle in his hands, he is given a moment’s pause.

ROLL CREDITS!

Stinger: Yeqawa summons her high priestesses and says “Fetch my instruments. The one who shamed me must die!”

Pantheon, Episode Two

A gigantic post today. Will try to hide it behind the cut.

Show-Game Concept – Five Gods, Ruling a New World

Episode One – Pilot

Setting info established: Korak’s Champion, aka The Warlord King aka Skoh chi Wahatenne, is born to that role, ala Heracles. There have been several over generations, the current one is kind of like Alexander the Great with some Darius – he is uniting the kingdoms with military genius. Each of Korak’s Champions is charged with a sacred quest of finding and killing Smith (when he is in mortal form) but that holy quest can be interpreted in a variety of ways.  Meanwhile, Always’ Champion, The Most Beautiful Woman In The World (currently Yeqawa) is more like the pope – she is elected by her church for her faith, duty and piety, and becomes more beautiful upon taking on the holy role. Nothing is particularly special about the current one – yet.

 

Prologue: Skoh’s birth. We see a young male baby and the prophetess tells the father that he belongs to Korak. Later, as a young boy, his father drills him in defeating a dozen men twice his age. Before he can shave, he is leading great armies on the battlefield. And not long after, he sits on his iron throne and hears that he now leads five great tribes. “Good”, he says, “now we can begin”.

 

ROLL CREDITS.

PANTHEON, EPISODE TWO: AS BELOW

 

We see Always as a young girl, impassive in the mirror, as her mother Ankar dresses her in finery, for today she is to be presented to her betrothed. Korak is just moments back from resucing Aristeia, the conquered Teyamaq at his feet, and while the parents seem enthused the young boy and girl find it all very awkward. Behind the two nervous kids, the two parents look on, planning a future, and behind them, sits the rescued Aristeia, ignored again.

 

In the modern day, wearing much the same expression, Ankar sits with Aristeia anew. She apologises that she’s never been much of a mother to her half-daughter, and wants to know if Aristeia is okay, if she has any concerns about the marriage and the rule. Aristeia says she thinks Korak is worthy, and if he is to rule, then so be it. Ankar asks about her feelings for Ix, whom Aristeia says “is also worthy”. Ankar suggest that she be more than friends to Ix, fulfilling her promise to Ix from last episode. However, Aristeia has no idea what Ankar is talking about, and leaves confused.

 

Meanwhile, Ix is in the Forest Infinite, teaching the young hare how to run. But Smith interrupts him, to tell him that things are moving forward, and they need to come up with a plan to stop Korak. Ix says he doesn’t plan, he is the wild! Smith holds back the insult and explains his plan: he wants to suggest to Korak that in order to prove himself worthy, Korak should go down to the mortal realm. Once in Smith’s territory (well, more Smith’s than anyone else) Smith can mess with him, and prove he is unworthy to rule. The problem is, Smith can’t suggest this idea to Korak because Korak hates and distrusts Smith, so Smith needs Ix to suggest it. Ix loves this idea, and wonders how it must be to have a head so full of plans. Smith smiles and wonders about strange bedfellows.

 

Cut to the Brass Palace. Always approaches Korak and they have their first proper talk about the marriage and the ruling. Always – as always – is very placid about it all, and is surprised that Korak is troubled. Korak wonders about the wildness of Ix, but then again, he is his brother, and will see reason through familial respect. Korak worries more about Smith. Always suggests they come up with a test to prove they are worthy that will surely get all the gods on side. She tells him she has a plan in this regard, and he wants to know what, but the plan isn’t finished yet and Always hates being pushed, so tells him no. Korak throws down and demands, as his wife to be, she not keep secrets. Always declines, but is quite insecure as a result. As a peace offering, she finally shows Korak her true face, but in the end it only highlights how little the two know each other.

 

Things are interrupted when Inikaya turns up and tells Korak that Ix has planned to summon the gods. Ix meanwhile, after telling Inikaya to do a general announcement, has gone looking for a pretext for summoning the gods. He’s gone down to the Pit itself, a huge cleft in the top of a lonely mountain, wherein Ix and Korak threw all the terrible beasts of the wild to make the world safe. At the top is a stone hut, home to Anehute Silent-Bear, who is a long-lived, god-touched mortal who serves as Master of the Pit, guarding it lest anything escape. Of course, Ix is hoping something might have escaped or there’s been a ripple or two to get his pretext but there has been none. So Ix decides if he can’t find a pretext he will make one – distracting Anehute so he can let something escape. That way, Korak will desperately need his advice and strength to fix the problem, and realise he cannot rule alone. However, despite trying his best, Anehute refuses to bow to anything which would take him from his post, and Ix becomes infuriated at uppity mortals who get in his way. His mood does not improve when warhorns blare to indicate his brother has arrived.

 

Ix: What brings you to see one of my servants?

Korak: Oh, no, I’m here to see you.

Ix: Oh, I’m HONOURED.

 

Korak wants to know why the gods have been summoned. Ix says well he left early at the last meeting and thinks things still need to be discussed about whether it’s actually a good idea and all. But Ix wants to talk about this AT THE MEETING not now.

 

Korak: I know it’s your way to be wild, and consider all possibilities, even those that might be considered unwise, but even you must acknowledge the right of our betters to determine the fate of our world. Do you challenge the wisdom of the Balance?

Ix: They declared you should be wed, but that your ruling was simply an obvious idea. But this is a new age, with new paths. And as I said, we will talk about this later.

 

Ix walks off, causing the forest to build around him so he can lose himself. Korak is enraged at being dismissed, especially when he was coming to take Ix down a peg, so he hews down the trees as fast as Ix can make them. In response, Ix rouses the forest at twice the speed and thickness. Korak yells “come back and face me, you’ve always been a COWARD!”. At that, Ix stops and

Walks

Back

Very

Slowly

Right

Next

To

Korak

And asks him what is so damn important.

 

Korak: Why do you challenge my rightful place?

Ix: Because your rightful place is not cast in stone.

Korak: No, it is cast by my POWER.

Ix: So now we see the truth: you seek to rule through power, not through being WORTHY

Korak: I rule because of what I have done and can do. Need I remind you of my deeds?

Ix: Need I remind you of MY deeds? Of my responsibilities? If I wanted to, I could loose everything in this pit against you, and then where would your strength be?

Korak: THIS is why you must never rule – the only power you have is to sow disorder!

Ix: Oh disorder? Yes. Disorder IS my strength. But disorder is part of the balance, part of the world. And if you are so strong, disorder should be no threat to YOU. So I shall open this pit – and if you are strong enough, try and stop me, BROTHER. (Demand: Let me open the Pit)

 

Ix drives his heels down and the rocks shake and the Pit trembles. Korak is tempted to prove his brother is an idiot and have a jolly good scrap (and not back down in front of his brother), but just earlier was telling Always how much he likes the mortals and doesn’t want thousands of them to die, so challenges his glory to stop this. He swings his blade, Ix grabs it, and they scrap back and forth. Ix challenges justice because it’s never been fair that Korak was the favourite son and adds Savage as he becomes bestial, clawed and thorned. It’s not enough, and Korak wrenches the blade away and slams his brother with the flat of the blade, knocking him unconscious. Lifting his brother onto his shoulder, he walks off.

 

 

 

Elsewhere…on the Horns of Dusk, the massive western mountain range that stops the Volyani from moving west, Always walks. She has sought a high place to talk to Sky, and has come to the mortal earth to do so because that is the topic of discussion. She has explained to Aristeia her plan: to test beyond a shadow of a doubt that her match to Korak is well-made by bringing together each of their champions – to cause the Warlord King, Skoh, to fall in love with Yeqawa, the most beautiful woman in the world. Always wants Aristeia’s help because she sees all on the earth. Aristeia doesn’t think it will definitely work, but figures they can give it a try.

 

Korak takes Ix to the Forest Infinite, where he is intercepted by Aristeia – who is aghast at the bloodied body of Ix. Korak explains he was wild, but Aristeia says she will take charge. Korak says “be careful”, Aristeia responds “he would never hurt me”, and the GM pushes the FORESHADOWING BUTTON!

 

Later, Ix wakes up in the Sacred Pool, cradled by Aristeia. She asks him what’s going on, and he says it is none of her concern, which of course is NOT what he should have said. Ix is forced to explain that, having heard his brother admit that he will take the crown by force, he wanted to make his brother prove that – “My wounds are a testimony to his madness”. Aristeia asks him to promise he will not open the Pit again and Ix makes her roll for it before he promises. And then she tends to his wounds.

 

Korak returns to his Brass Palace to find Always waiting to explain her plan. At this point we establish that no gods are aware about the prophecy of Skoh – that if he knows Love, he will die (he cannot touch one part of Always without touching all parts of her). Korak and Always decide it is a good idea to try the experiment, and they will send their champions to the marketplaces of Yawe. They descend to the High Temples so Always can command Yeqawa to unite with Skoh. Yeqawa obeys without question but asks for something in return – to have issue, despite her barrenness.

 

The next target is Skoh – who is out fighting on the plains. The Gods visit him invisibly so Always can see his mind and know what he wants for a partner and what he wants as a partner for his God. Skoh sees Korak as the great source of order, unity and strength, taking his sense of truth and authority from Korak. This tells Always he wants to see what Korak would want, so she demands, for once, that Korak tell him actually what he wants to see in a lady. He dodges the question and just tells her to appear as a general. Korak says he must ally with Yeqawa, as well as unite with her, but at that Skoh blanches, because for him, allegiance makes his quest worthless. He asks if his God will release him from the burden of being the Warlord King if he obeys him regarding Yeqawa. Korak says “your destiny will always be as you make it”, and the two leave.

 

We have a flashback so the prophecy is clear to the audience – Skoh being told by the scryer that he will fall if he fails to deny the Inevitable. Skoh nods and says “I shall be great – and then I shall be greater”.

 

Back to the modern day, the two Gods walk out of Skoh’s tent only to be accosted by Smith, who, disguised as a God, heard the whole thing. He mocks their “experiment” but says he is …interested in seeing how it goes. Korak tells him he should stick around here at the battlefield to see REAL greatness. Smith laughs darkly. Then Inikaya appears to summon the Gods to Ix’s meeting (Inikaya secretly works for Korak so gave him the heads up long in advance).

 

Smith zooms over to the Forest Infinite to make sure Ix is still on track with the plan of bringing up the mortal form idea. Ix says its gone beyond that now; Korak is clearly a threat and it might be time instead to figure out how they can stand against him. Smith says we still need to throw down the gauntlet to them, and not show our colours or start a war. He asks Aristeia to stand with him (and Ix) in not supporting Korak until he can prove his worth. Aristeia, having heard of the experiment, thinks Smith makes sense. Ix says that then they don’t need him, wanting to sulk in his Forest, but the two remind him that without him, Always and Korak won’t be out-numbered. Ix bristles at being told what to do AGAIN and tells Smith he must face Korak in his own way. Smith’s rage at the world rises, so Aristeia tries another route, just asking quietly and we get our first hint that Ix is sweet on Aristeia as he complies quickly.

 

And so they go. “Clearly the reign of the five will be one of strife,” says Ix, sullenly. “That is our choice,” says Korak, but Always says “It is not Inevitable”. Smith points out that things with the Balance were very strife-stricken, and thus we need a new plan. Ix stumbles forth what Smith has tried to school him to say, that this is a new world, a world of the Five, not of the Two, and things are different now, so we need a new plan. Smith heartily agrees, which is interesting since the two rarely get along.

 

Always assures Ix they have taken steps to prove they are worthy, first by examining the union. The pantheon IS different and more reflective of humans, so Always does agree that things need to be tested. Everyone agrees, and Always says the bickering is wasting time. Smith says they need to also ask others beyond the Five and Always also agrees, saying that the other gods should make suggestions as to what Always and Korak could do to prove they are worthy for them. Ix likes the idea of challenges. Smith wants everyone to meet back after an interval, with all the gods in attendance – it’s like a committee meeting, boring the wilder gods. But again, Always says fine, whatever, send Inikaya to get challenges from the gods, and dismisses them, because she and Korak have to get back to the battlefield below.

 

After they go, Ix points out how agreeable Always is and how SHE would make a fine leader without Korak. Smith thinks that is even worse, of course. Ix says it’s important they prove themselves individually and prove the marriage, because Always might be fine to rule, but with a much better husband. Aristeia says “You mean like you?” cross that once again her younger sister seems to get everything. Smith finds that, although for different reasons, he agrees with Ix.

 

Ix says he is going to go and find a way to test Korak’s mettle, and runs back to his Forest and grabs some primal clay to shape a terrifying beast. Smith goes off to plan to get all the minor gods to suggest challenges which secretly favour Smith. Out loud, he says he has to go see his ex wife. Aristeia realise she is left to watch over the whole mess. She ascends to the sky and watches much more actively.

 

Back at the battlefield, Korak and Always chat. Always says the idea of trials are ridiculous, but they will pass them because they are obviously worthy. Smith may try to trick them, but that is his way, and it will not matter. Down on earth, Korak appears in his temple doorway and looks at the marketplaces, and Always’ temple opposite. As he leaves, Always appears in her doorway – and her arm is bumped to show the audience she is mortal. As she steps back, Yeqawa comes past out the door, heading to the marketplaces. We see Skoh walking quickly down the road back to Yawe. Then we see a man in armour much like Skoh’s walking through the marketplace, but his face is Smith’s…and then he raises his arm to adjust his helmet, and the face becomes Skoh’s…

 

ROLL CREDITS!

 

Stinger: Anehute sits in his shack…still shocked at Ix’s actions. “He was going to open the Pit…what choice do I have? …. Do we still have our deal?” We pan across to his interlocutor, who nods – and it is Ulyuq, Lord of Cold, greatest of the Rimebloods, and most terrifying prisoner of the pit…