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Another Skyrim snippet

"Aw, man," groaned Turbul gro-Tesk. "Our good axe too."

Anfang opened his eyes and sat up, feeling the ache in his bones and joints. Getting killed would do that to you, especially after the seventh or eighth time.

"Every damn week!" the orc groused. "Every damn week some lousy adventurer comes along..."

"This is the main road from Whiterun to--well, just about everywhere east of here," Anfang pointed out. "Where else would they go?"

"I remember when that was a good reason to set up here," Dilecta said from the doorway. "Lots of rich merchants to rob, you said. Easy money, you said. Collect a toll, you said--"

"I know what I said!" Anfang snapped. "What did they take?"

"Everything!" Turbul slammed his hand down on the table. "All the cash, all the food, all the alchemy supplies..."

"The potions?"

"Every last one."

"Even the one in the--"

"Yes." Anfang didn't know what it was, bad water or bad air or too much steamed mudcrab, but ever since they'd set up camp in these towers, visits to the privy for all of them had become...difficult. It only made sense to keep a bottle of healing potion nearby.

Well, there was no help for it. "Did you get a good look?"

"I never saw a thing," Dilecta said glumly. "Arrow through the back and out went the lights."

"It was a woman," Turbul said. "Small, dark. Merchant's outfit, I think. That's all."

"All right," Anfang said. "We see her again, we kill her on sight. Right?"

The others nodded, each thinking the same thing; that they would be lucky to get a glimpse of her, or any other adventurer who happened along, before they got skewered. They weren't up to this.

Anfang sighed heavily, and got to his feet. It would take days to gather the ingredients for more healing potions, never mind anything else.

Some days, being a bandit was just not worth it.

Why?

greygirlbeast likes the new Star Wars film, Rogue One, because it's "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark."

I'm glad she likes it...but really, does *EVERYTHING* have to be "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark"? Does one even go to Star Wars for "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark"? Are there not hundreds, thousands of other story 'verses out there that are "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark"? Are people still making good, well-told films for grown-ups that are not trying to be "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark," that are trying to be positive and bright and hopeful and visible to the partially sighted?

There is a place for all kinds of stories, beyond the promptings of passing fashion. In these coming days I predict that we are going to rather go off "raw and gritty and dirty and very dark." There'll be too much of that all around us. We'll be looking for a Frank Capra de nos jours, to tell us that in spite of everything there is goodness and light in the worlds.

In the meantime, I don't think I'll be making a point of seeing Rogue One. I go to Star Wars for a very specific kind of experience, and that...if Aunt Beast is right...is not it.

Old times

"Scientists today unveiled a startling new theory about the nature of time, which could go some way to explaining a number of things we find perplexing. Speaking to our reporter, Professor Hilda Gefarr of the Orthodox Research Consortium explained the theory as follows:

"'If we postulate that the universe had a beginning, and furthermore that neither matter nor energy can be created nor destroyed, then every part and particle that makes up the universe began to exist in the same moment, currently estimated to be some four and a half billion years ago. This would include all of space, and all of time; all the matter, and all the energy.

"'Now we think we understand the processes that affect matter, energy and space, but we have hardly begun to explore how time is affected by, in fact, itself. Yet, if you think about it, the time we are experiencing now is some four and a half billion years older than the time around the universe's beginning. It has been around, in the back of the universal refrigerator so to speak, for all that time, waiting to be used. We are experiencing very, very old time.

"'If time has a shelf-life--an age after which it gradually begins to deteriorate--then this time, our present now, is quite probably past it. Indeed, the process of deterioration might have accelerated to the point where it can be observed even by non-scientists. This could explain, among other things, the pervasive sense among humans that present time is merely a pale shadow of a former time which was better. Till now this has been put down to selective memory of the freedom of childhood, but I find this hypothesis quite implausible. It seems to me far more persuasive that our time has, in fact, started to go off.

"'Whether it will last till the postulated entropic collapse of space and matter is a question we are doing our best to answer, while we look for some way of refreshing our time and prolonging its useful life. I should emphasise that at this point we have no idea how long we have before time begins to dry out and sprout blue fur; it could be days, it could be millennia, it could have already started. The only thing we can say with certainty is that the popular truism is correct; the future is definitely not what it used to be.'

"Professor Bernard Quatermass of the British Rocket Group was unavailable for comment."

Well.

I've been told that I ought to stop posting on LiveJournal, because the servers have now been moved to Russia, which means they are governed by Russian law, which means something I'm not too sure about but which probably doesn't involve evul Commie tentacles emerging from your computer and sucking out your brains. Dreamwidth is apparently much better and nicer and cleaner and thoroughly safe in all respects, unless you happen to know that one of the founders of DW used to work for LJ and did nasty things while they were there. But never mind that.

I am aware that Russia is now the Big Bad again (Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia) and that we all should go in fear and trembling of what they might do with our personal data. I can't imagine anyone being remotely interested in my personal data, but apparently it's not about me, it's about the hordes of fans who flock to my LJ and hang upon my every utterance, thus putting them in immediate danger of sinister Russian spybots ferreting out their secrets and doing something nasty with them. That's you, by the way, reading this. Yes, both of you.

So, if this concerns you, I would suggest you stop reading this right now and forget you ever knew about my LJ account. Myself, I find the idea of throwing away something for which I paid a not insignificant sum to me back in the day mildly distasteful, especially when what's happened to it since is none of my doing, and I have no idea whether I will feel up to migrating everything over to a DW account which I created for a specific purpose and which I hardly ever look at. So if I do stop posting here, I shall probably retire into obscurity altogether, at least for a time.

And I am just as concerned about sinister spies from America, or Afghanistan, or France or Britain, as I am about those in Russia. I don't know if there is a single government in the world at the moment that I would trust to tell me if it was raining outside, and I don't see that changing any time soon. (Maybe Iceland. There are probably no sinister spies from Iceland ferreting through my data. Probably.) They are all out to get us, and sooner or later they will. Shifting the deckchairs may make us feel a little better, but it makes no long-term difference.

So, if I continue to post here, it's up to you whether or not you read it. If I start posting on DW, ditto. FB, the same. But, as the spectre of Great and Powerful Russia shouts louder and glows with fiercer demonic fire and smoke, do keep looking for the man behind the curtain. Because, you know, I'm really not convinced.
The woman who called herself Lethiel Lightfoot crept, almost invisible, almost inaudible, into the final chamber of the tomb.

Temperamentally and by parentage not a cruel or violent person, she had prepared herself with considerable forethought for a career in this world where violence and cruelty were practically the norm. She had honed her skills to perfection, had by devious means provided herself with the best possible equipment, had practiced religiously till she could pass like a shadow through a crowded room, could defeat any lock on any door or chest, could fell a man or a monster of humanoid dimensions with a single arrow from a considerable distance. She was weak on hand-to-hand combat, and possessed no aptitude for magic, but as a thief or an assassin she yielded to no peer. It was the best she could do, and it meant that any fighting in which she was involved tended to be decisive, short, and as painless as she could make it.

The adversary she would face here was something special, an undead sorcerer who possessed the ability to pass instantly into another plane and emerge somewhere else moments later. She would have to be quick, if she were to get her hands on the mystical amulet that he wore round his desiccated neck. She reached her goal, the best position from which to command the entire chamber, and readied her bow, nocking an arrow. She would have one shot at best, before he phased out and things got...complicated.

The lid of the sarcophagus cracked open, and the creature climbed out and stood up. Lethiel fell into the practised routine. Breathe, aim, focus. Time seemed to slow down as she levelled the arrow and fired.

The undead jerked as the shaft struck home, jerked and flung up its arms...and vanished.

Lethiel waited.

After several minutes she said softly, "Bugger."

Carrie Fisher and the character she played

I didn't like Princess Leia, and it was all because of one line. See the icon.

I didn't expect her to be grateful, or fall wiltingly into Luke's or Han's arms, or anything like that. She was already established as a strong character. She had withstood Vader's Terrible Invasive Torture Machine That Leaves No Trace, and she was still strong and feisty even after Alderaan (so very predictably) got blown up anyway. (Big hint: villains lie.) I even thought she would probably take charge of her own rescue, being more experienced in these matters than either of the boys. But that line, delivered over the shoulder with a smug little smile while strutting out in front and not particularly looking where she was going, got me on the raw. To me it illustrated in pinpoint detail the difference that does exist between "displaying leadership qualities" and "being bossy." And while I'm sure that if she had looked back and found herself alone she would still have managed to get away perfectly competently, I couldn't have faulted the boys for just letting her get on with it.

But see, the thing is, I didn't have to like her. She didn't have to be perfect. She could have flaws, and be irritating, and be real, just like Luke and Han and all the rest. And it was Carrie Fisher, in that pivotal moment of which I've spoken when the writers and the director and the crew have all done as much as they can and it's just down to you, the words, and the camera...it was Carrie Fisher who made her real. Flaws and all.

RIP.

Oh dear

Dear Professor Brian Cox,

I was very interested to hear you say, on national television tonight, that crop circles do not exist. I have a feeling you may be receiving a number of photographs in the near future. I did not photograph the one my wife and I saw several years ago, as I was driving at the time, but it definitely existed.

It's possible that what you intended to say was something along the lines of "yes, of course crop circles exist, but there is at the moment no conclusive evidence that they are caused by anything other than human agency, and as a scientist I prefer in this instance to go with the explanation that best fits the available evidence," but it was cut for time, or for some other reason, putting you in a position of going on record, admittedly in an entertainment context, as blatantly denying observed facts; not actually that scientific.

Still, that's showbiz for you. We very much enjoyed the programme.

Love,

Me

P.S. I say I say I say, what's the difference between "aliens" and "dark energy"?

The inescapable conclusion

Sophie Labelle's latest Assigned Male comic (http://assignedmale.tumblr.com/image/154503698872) says "Looking for a biological cause for transness is neurosexist, transphobic, cisnormative and eugenist."

I suppose it depends why you're looking. If you just want to understand, then I don't see any harm. If you are in fact looking for a way to "fix" it, to put things "right," or to junk the "defective" models, then it's all those things. And some people will be, because that's how some people are.

But it seems to me that there's an inescapable conclusion here. If being gay, or bi, or trans, or ace, or straight for that matter, is not a "lifestyle choice," and yet is not caused by anything in the physical, biological composition of the person...

...then we have to postulate something in the makeup of living things (not just human beings--well, not necessarily just living things, but let's keep it simple for the moment) which is both (a) real, and (b) not a physical, biological phenomenon. If being gay, or bi, or trans, or ace, or straight, is not a choice and not a variation in the way the body (which includes the brain) works, but is nonetheless a real and unchangeable part of the person, then that person has to have something to them besides their body. That person has to have a soul.

Which, of course, will come to some of us as no surprise at all.

Dracul and the gang 2

Across the room, Allie too was laying down the law to a group of intense young people in politically adorned t-shirts.

"Of course there's a consperacy," she snapped. "There's always a bloody consperacy. You just don't recognise it. You expect it to be guys in stchipid black cloaks and hats scuttling into a coal cellar with secret handshakes and passwords and all that shite. Or grey men in a boardroom in the sky using euphemesms like 'eleminate' when they mean 'murder.' That's just movie clichés.

"People are always trynae do each other down. Not everyone, or not everyone all the time, but somebody somewhere at any geven moment. For every ediot like us there are three who are looking for advantage and don't care how they get it. So that's going on all the time, right? And sooner or later somebody gets good at it, and they get money and power, which makes them better at it, 'cause those are the tools. And they carry on doing it, 'cause it's what they do best. And then they start to move in the cercles where people like them move, and they make friends, well not friends as we know it, but people they know. And sooner or later one of their 'friends' asks a favour, and they do it, and then they ask a favour back, and the other guy does it, and pretty soon you have this tight little group of very rich, very powerful people, all doing favours for each other and getting favours back. All of them hating each other like poison, none of them trusting each other one ench, but bound together by this network of favours. You advertise your cosmetics in my paper, I'll prent an article that makes your fracking operation look good. That kind of theng.

"There's no master plan, no beg map on the wall with red lights, no overall goal...but it is a consperacy just the same. A seedy, shabby, ramshackle consperacy to get through the next day without losing it all. And that's the mess we're in. And don't ask me how to fight it, 'cause I've no sodding clue...but recognising it seems to me like a pretty good first step."

In a nearby corner, silent and unnoticed, Frankie got out his tiny notebook and wrote down:

CONSPERACY

Spero = I hope.

Consperacy = people who hope together?

Join the Consperacy!


He looked at it for a long time, before putting the notebook away and heaving himself to his feet. It was a nice idea...but if Allie thought he was making fun of her accent he would be a dead man, and he hadn't finished his novel yet.

He went to find a drink.

Dracul and the gang

"Of course magic exists," Dracul said testily. "It's all around you. You just don't see it, because you expect magic to be all hocus pocus and dancing around naked and talking forsoothly. Which is a fun way to do it, of course, but it's just the outward show.

"What do you think infinity is? To start with it was just a word that meant 'endlessness,' and was used to describe God a lot. Endlessly powerful, endlessly knowing, endlessly loving, endlessly beardy, all that. Then, for a while, it was used to describe space and time, because we thought they were endless. We know better now, of course; space and time both had beginnings and ends. Still not sure about God, but that's a side issue. Infinity, to most people, just means 'so big it makes my head hurt.' It's a hot water bottle for the brain against the cold and dark of actual reality. There is nothing in the known, observable universe that is actually infinite. Theoretically infinite, potentially infinite, yes, but in actual hard fact everything, sooner or later, runs up against limits. Your fractal leaf patterns get down to the size of a plant cell and can't go any smaller. Actual infinity doesn't exist. Like the square root of minus one, like pi, it only exists, can only exist, in people's heads.

"And yet, once the clever buggers got hold of it, they managed to create an entire branch of mathematics around infinity, and from those numbers they have derived practical, real world applications which make a difference to all of us.

"And. That. Is. Magic.

"There's absolutely no difference between calling into being a non-existent number to help you build a computer, and calling into being a non-existent kobold to direct you to buried treasure. Magic, as the old Beastie said, is causing change to occur in the universe by the power of one's will, and the tool for that job is the human imagination.

"Why do you think computers are so capricious and bloody-minded? Because they depend for their function on entities we created from our imaginations to cause change in the universe by the power of our wills. Try yelling 'Rumpelstiltskin!" at your laptop. It won't make any difference, of course, but you might feel better about it."

Skyrim again

So, because I owned the original Skyrim and all the extra modules, I got Skyrim Special Edition free, and I've been trying it out.

On the one hand, it looks gorgeous, even better than original Skyrim with the HD textures, and seems to run better as well. There are some lovely weather effects, and the colours are more vibrant.

On the other hand...because it's a whole new piece of software, designed for 64-bit, there's no way that ordinary Skyrim mods will work with it without being rejigged, and I really do play the game mostly for the mods. Some of them have been reworked, but two of the most important ones, SKSE and SkyUI, haven't yet, and that makes a HUGE difference to gameplay. The best mod organiser software, imaginatively called Mod Organizer, has yet to be updated for the new edition.

And worse than that, some of the best mods will never be redone for SE, because their designers have given up or moved on and taken their secrets with them. It's vanishingly unlikely that my character in SE will ever be able to become a real bard, or deal in property, or grow interesting herbs in her back yard. She rode through the village of Ivarstead last night, and was shocked to see (because she shares a consciousness with me and all her predecessors) a blank cliff face across the river where, in her last incarnation, stood the castle she occupied as Jarl of Ivarstead. So much missing.

I like the Special Edition. But I think I'll be keeping the original as well.
Yes, this is it, the last one. Our long national nightmare is over.

The MS is now in the hands of a reliable editor, who will point out to me such things as Mordecai being good at languages on one page and hopeless at them on another, and hopefully a revised and improved text will be available in print or ebook form via Lulu in due course. In the meantime, if you want an electronic ARC of the text as it stands, let me know via email and I will send you one.

And, of course, if you would like to comment on this chapter or the story as a whole, that would make me very very happy indeed.

Thanks for reading.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

“Lady Ralitz,” Gisel said.
“Lady Andemar. And your majesty. Well, this is a surprise.” Lady Ralitz smiled with perfect savoir-faire as she rose from her chair. “May I offer you some tea?”
“Not this time, I think,” Gisel said. “But thank you all the same.” Gisel stood aside as Zivano walked between them into the room. “I believe you've met.”
Lady Ralitz's face twisted into a mask of rage, and she reached for something down beside her chair. Zivano made a single gesture, and she froze.
“You viper!” she spat at Zivano. “You disgusting pig!”
“Enough of that,” Zivano said easily, gesturing again. Unwillingly, Lady Ralitz straightened up, while Gisel retrieved the small bulb of úllama from the floor. “Handle that very carefully, Gisel, and don't squeeze it whatever you do. Now then, my lady, I'm going to ask you some questions, and you're going to answer them truthfully.”
“I'll never tell you anything,” Lady Ralitz snarled.
“Oh yes, you will,” Zivano said. “Because, you see, I'm going to use magic.” He made a gesture, and Lady Ralitz's head twisted upwards and to the right.
*
Cut for length...Collapse )

Filk

Sorry, Hillary.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Brought a tourist
Who caused a commotion
Just like a magic word
Can make a book open
I may only have one spell
But it could cause an explosion.

And all those things that I have done
That you may think were so much fun
All those battles that I've won
I'll show you how; when I say "run"--

CHORUS
This is my flight song
Running for my life song
Keep out of sight song
My instinct's turned on
Starting right now I'll be gone
I'll sing my flight song
And I don't really care if I let my cowardice show--
I've still got a lot of miles left to go.

You've got me under your beady eye
Your expectations are much too high
I don't want to die
I don't want to die
For all these years I've dodged the grave
Everybody thinks I'm so brave
But I'm not that guy
I'm not that guy

And all those things that I have done
That you may think were so much fun
All those battles that I've won
I'll show you how; when I say "run"--

CHORUS
This is my flight song
Running for my life song
Keep out of sight song
My instinct's turned on
Starting right now I'll be gone
I'll sing my flight song
And I don't really care if I let my cowardice show--
I've still got a lot of miles left--

It takes a wizard to cast a spell or know when to refrain
Because the things from the Dungeon Dimensions eat into your brain
I've been aspiring all my life but now I think I'm starting not to care
So tell me about this mission--Heavens! Look over there!

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Brought a tourist
Who caused a commotion
Just like a magic word
Can make a book open
I may only have one spell
But it could cause an explosion.

CHORUS
This is my flight song
Running for my life song
Keep out of sight song
My instinct's turned on
Starting right now I'll be gone
I'll sing my flight song
And I don't really care if I let my cowardice show--
I've still got a lot of miles left to go.

(Go Rincewind)

Chapter 21 of Two Magicians and a Boat!

Comments very welcome as always.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Gisel closed the magery door, put up the sign that said MAGERY CLOSED, and made her way to the palace kitchen garden, thanking no gods that it was at least not raining today. There was a fierce, blustery wind, whipping at her robe and blowing her hair into her face, and the sky was grey and had a look of thunder about it. Gisel quickened her steps.
King Bran was waiting for her, and Zivano arrived before they had had time to do more than exchange hasty greetings.
“You found my recording?” he said, without ceremony.
“Yes,” King Bran said. “We found it.”
“I found it appalling,” Gisel said.
“It was the best quality I could manage in the time available,” Zivano said. Cut for length...Collapse )

Chapter 20 of Two Magicians and a Boat!

Comments welcomed. If not actively solicited.

CHAPTER TWENTY

“One mistake too many, Zorn,” Prince Chaz said.
Zorn whimpered. He was bruised and bleeding from a dozen cuts. Prince Chaz had been very thorough in expressing his displeasure.
“What am I to do now for an adviser?” Chaz asked rhetorically. “How am I to complete my mission, since you have proved so useless?”
Zorn said nothing. The woman, the remaining prisoner, watched, disinterested, dull-eyed, as Chaz raised the whip once more.
*
Cut for length...Collapse )

Reading again

Spot the novel: a fictitious alien from a nineteen-forties sci-fi comic possesses the body of a dead junkie and constructs fearsome and effective alien weapons out of old transistor radios and torch batteries.

Not to keep you in suspense, the author was L P Davies, one of the unsung geniuses of British sf, and the book, "Psychogeist," was written in 1966. Davies died in 1988, having helped to shape my young writer's imagination via the local library, and his twenty-some novels are long out of print. Whether they would ever be reprinted now is a moot point, but I'd consider it unlikely; they are conventional of their time, and most of the significant characters are white, middle-class and male. I think that's a shame, because they are good stories backed by good ideas, and there are at least a dozen in the Wikipedia list I've never read and would like to.

Just thought I'd mention it.

Let's talk (about men)

Come on, sit down. Over here. It's time we talked.

You're a good man. I know that. You've grown up always knowing that, no matter what anybody else said, men and women were equal members of the human race, and you've acted accordingly. You show everyone equal courtesy and respect, you speak out when you see some guy being obnoxious, and you support activist movements for equal rights. You're careful not to give offence by some casually sexist remark and you even know not to say "Not all men..." You're genuinely good, and I admire you for that.

And yet sometimes you look around and it seems like we haven't got anywhere. It seems as though the problem has just got bigger and bigger, and there's no end in sight, no gleam of hope. You know your friends are all right, but there are just so many others out there being stupid and evil and really, really loud, and it seems as if we're going backwards.

And you're asking yourself "what can men do to fix this?"

And the answer to that question, as it's stated, is "nothing."

Hold on. Let me explain.

You, personally, you can do a lot. You're doing it already, as I said up there at the top, and you're always looking for ways to be better. That is really important, I can't tell you how important that is, because the ideal, the ultimate end of desire, is to have every man do exactly what you're doing. Nobody expects you to be perfect, but that's what everyone should try for, because even falling short by a mile still puts you way ahead.

But what can men do...well, as I said, nothing, on their own.

Because men have never ever once in the history of the world done anything on their own.

All the good things, and I'm sorry to say all of the bad things, that humanity has achieved in its perilously short history on this planet, have been done by men and women together. Even before written history began, I'd bet. Certainly everything we know about. The rise and fall of Sumer and Egypt? Men and women. The Roman Empire? Men and women. The spread of Christianity? Men and women. The Crusades? The Renaissance? The Reformation? The Inquisition? The colonisation of America? The exploitation of Africa? The industrial revolution? Apollo?

Everything. All the way down the years, men and women, helping each other, supporting each other, fighting each other, killing each other, and whatever the history books say about how this man did this thing and this other man did that thing, you can bet there were women involved as well, crucially involved. You might not have heard about them, though, which is where you get this idea that men can solve even big problems all on their own.

You can't. You can do it for yourself, yes, but the first thing, the very first thing that men have to do, as a gender (and some men prefer other men and some men used to be women, I do not mean this to be heteronormative, but that's another topic right now) the very first thing is to admit that men need and love and depend on women, that the human race is not completely comprised in the set of its members who have, er, members, that men can't live without women and have denied that fact in their hearts for far too long.

Own your weakness alongside your strength.

I'm not talking about any specific man-woman (or whichever) pairing here, though if you've found someone who completes you then I'm ecstatically happy for you. I'm talking about men in general owning and acknowledging the fact that they are only half a species without women, that you can't have two halves that aren't equal. It seems obvious to you and me, but it's not obvious to everyone, and it needs to be made obvious.

We can't fix ourselves alone, not any of us. And it's not like men can go to women and get them to do all the work and then get up and swagger off, all fixed and back to normal. It's not like that. This is an ongoing thing, a lifetime thing, a shared thing. You've done so much in yourself, as much as anyone can do, but you need to do a little bit more for your half of humanity, and that starts with admitting that no, we aren't capable of doing everything for ourselves. The flaw in our nature is there for a reason. It's there because our ancestors and our families and our leaders and everyone has perpetuated and systematised and institutionalised the notion that men are the Can-Do Captains of humanity and women are a sort of bolt-on accessory, an optional extra. That's not true and that idea needs to be rooted out, but men can't do it by themselves because all too often they can't even see it.

The problem is with men, but the only way it will be fixed is if men can admit that they can't do it alone. The only way it will be fixed is by all of us together. Men and women. Women and men.

Thank you for listening.

The two-faced truths

Being trans, even in the limited and online-only way that I now am, is not simple. There's so much to recognise and unlearn. It's often been said that truth is a double-edged sword (at least I think it has) but in some cases it's more like a coin.

Traditionally, the truth cis men learn as boys is that they are naturally bigger and stronger and smarter than girls, and that this gives them both a power and a responsibility; the power to protect and provide for women, and the responsibility to do so, to use their greater strength and power wisely and with compassion. (Okay, some of them skip out to play before they get to the "responsibility" part. We need to work on that.) Girls and women are seen as smaller, weaker, less capable in every way, and in need of men to do things for them. That's the side of the coin that's always uppermost, the side that's always visible. The coin's rigged to come down on that side every time.

Meanwhile, cis women learn as girls a hidden truth; that in fact it is they who are the stronger ones, they who have more stamina, more courage, more wisdom, and that this must be placed at the service of men, who are poor pathetic creatures with egos that must be constantly flattered and propped up if they are to be of any use at all. Women must keep things going, maintain the home, raise the children, keep their men happy and satisfied and proud of themselves, because the poor things can't manage without that incessant support. "Cuz, after all, he's just a man." That's the underside of the coin, the side that's kept secret.

Girls are taught to be strong. Boys simply find it expected of them. I missed out on a whole great chunk of education, which, if I were to try to make it as a woman in the real world, I would have to learn really quickly. And I'm a little old to start now.

Those are the two faces of truth. The real truth, the essential truth which the two faces conceal, is the reality of the coin. We are all strong, smart and wise, and at the same time we are all small, weak, scared, and dependent on each other. This is nothing to do with who gets to wear the pretty dress or who has to put up the shelves. This is our human heritage, this other two-faced truth; we all, male, female, gay, straight, cis, trans, whatever, have this dual nature, strength and wisdom hobbled by weakness and fear, and the solution and the answer is each other. We should all, whoever we are, honour and support each other, and thus enable each other to display the strength and the wisdom and the humanity of which we are all capable. See the weakness in your loved ones, accept it, and honour them for the strength that they can show.

No one is an island. No gender, no human subgroup whatever, has a monopoly on any good or bad quality that has not been culturally imposed on them. Culture is an illusion; an important illusion, but one that can be changed, given the will. The truth is not on either face of the coin; the truth is the coin. Pick it up and weigh it in your hand, and learn from it. Then put it in your pocket and go and spend it. Coins, like truths, work best when they circulate freely.

Chapter 19 of Two Magicians and a Boat!

CHAPTER NINETEEN

“I think the Sinjaro's in league with them,” Gorol insisted. “He deliberately stopped me scragging the one who pinched the food. Gave him time to get away.”
“Do you think so?” Thavaar considered. “It could indeed be so. But even if it were so, brother Gorol, how do you propose we proceed? Our stout leader, or so we thought him, has washed his hands of us and retired to his room to pout. We have already attempted once to enlist his aid against the foreign peril, without success. Brother Driskil, a worthy man of his hands by all accounts, even now languishes upon his bed of pain, laid low by this very Sinjaro. We are depleted, I fear, sadly depleted.”
“I'll be all right,” Driskil said weakly. He was still very pale, but had recovered consciousness and taken a little food.
“Indeed you will, brother Driskil, but alas, not yet. I must think, I must plan. Deprived as I am of the motive fluid of my existence by the caprice of the witches of Gerenna, nonetheless I must cudgel my weakened brain into action.”
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