Through the Cracks Ch3 bit – No Place Like Home

“Yamato.” Sejanes sighed. “Tremane and I must have visited that land half a dozen times in the service of the Iron Throne. And each time, we were surprised all over again.” He tapped a finger against the table. “Imagine the Pelagirs, with all their wild magic, and multiply that ten times over. Twist and contort the whole of it into four sea-washed islands, so violent and unstable that the earth shakes daily, people build with paper rather than brick because they expect the building to fall down on them, and even the smallest village supports a miko, a shrine maiden, just to warn of the great sea-waves that rise out of the ocean without warning. A land so fierce, so dangerous, that the Eastern Empire has done no more than gain a toehold for trade. That is Yamato.” He laughed at himself. “Back then, we believed the miko and houshi were just charlatans, ‘predicting’ the future and ‘casting out demons’ to make their living from the unwary. Now… now I’m not so certain.

“The local magic is so unstable that sending in an unwary Adept can get him torn apart the first time he tries to tap a ley line. And you can’t allow in any woman who might be bearing a child with Mage-Gift. You’d be signing both of their death warrants. There are no local mages. Not as we know them.” Sejanes paused. “But there are hitokiri.”

Kaoru loosened her fingers, a joint at a time. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear this. She steeled herself. But I have to.

“As you say, Kaoru-san, hitokiri means manslayer. They’re warriors, first and foremost. Usually swordsmen. And on the battlefield, they can do things that are literally… magical. Fire from nowhere. Blows that slice through armor and bone in one clean cut. Healing impossible wounds. Information sped from hitokiri to spy and back again, with no trace of magical communication; as if their very thoughts reached out and touched.” Sejanes arched wry brows. “Of course, the Empire thought it was all superstition. They had to be mages, cloaking their power in ways unknown to us. How else could one do such things?”

“Mind-Magic?” Eldan paled. “You’re saying these killers have Mind-Gifts?”

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52 thoughts on “Through the Cracks Ch3 bit – No Place Like Home

  1. Certainly sounds like it . . .

    And don’t get too high up on your high horse, mister, many Heralds are killers too. They have killed people. Usually bad people, often in defense of their own life and/or the lives of others but they still kill them.

    Most hitokiri, I’m betting, don’t go around killing people willy-nilly. There is usually a reason. It might not be one that you understand or you don’t think that is a good enough reason to be killing someone, but there is reason. Just like you Heralds generally have your reasons.

    But reasons or not, the person is still dead. And you still made them that way.

    Probably doesn’t help that at least some of the hitokiri and other Yamato aren’t human and do not think like a human.

    Also it sounds like Yamato might be the local counterpart to Australia. Everything is trying to kill you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, come on.

    Not every Gifted is Chosen as a Herald, and Gifts are known of in Valdemar. The government – due to close royal ties with the Heraldic Circle and Companion influence – may be mostly of the good, but if Eldan is trying to claim no MindGifted was ever a murderer I don’t buy it. Not even a little.

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    1. Heh. No. But in Valdemar, people who use their Gifts for nefarious purposes are caught. And – it’s implied in the books, at least, though as far as I know we never see it actually happen – stripped of their Gifts, somehow. So Eldan is familiar with the concept that a Gifted person might commit murder, sure.

      From what he’s heard so far, though, hitokiri are a whole set of traditions that involve teaching the Gifted to use their Gifts with blood magic. Forgive him for going eep.

      Heck, if you reread By The Sword, Eldan had problems dealing with Kero at first, when she was rescuing him from being tortured to death… because she was a mercenary, not a Herald. Someone who killed people for hire. Even if she didn’t use her Mind-Gift to do it.

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      1. There are two examples in the books about gifts being stripped, but they’re both in the Gryphons’ series(One a very bad guy, the second was far more uncomfortable.)

        I’d imagine in Valdemar, they’d use the Healers to do it, given that mind healing is an actual specialty. And yeah, Eldan had a few issues in the Sword, I have to admit, I was glad he actually grew up during the book as well.

        I think the whole bit of Companions influencing their Heralds also comes into play here. If a Companion chooses someone, that’s kind of the end of questioning, except in some of the more exceptional cases. Necessary to have the quite varied Heralds not break up, not good at breaking up xenophobia outside that circle.

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      2. They have a couple examples of Gifts being shut down in the most recent series, Herald Spy. And yes, it is done by Healers. They note that the closer the Gift is to Empathy, the easier it is for a Healer to shut down. They talk a few times about how easy it is to shut down the Gift of a Bard who has been misusing his/her talents. The Dean of the Bardic Collegium at the time notes that Heralds have it way too easy when it comes to moral use of Gifts, given they literally have an extra conscience grafted on, and that Bards don’t have nearly the same oversight that Heralds do either. (In the context of a Bard literally using projective empathy to get girls to sleep with him.)

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    2. >Not every Gifted is Chosen as a Herald, and Gifts are known of in Valdemar. The government – due to close royal ties with the Heraldic Circle and Companion influence – may be mostly of the good, but if Eldan is trying to claim no MindGifted was ever a murderer I don’t buy it. Not even a little.>
      Not sure how it is in modern Valdemar but it memory serves back in the Mage Wars, empaths could have severe issues remaining stable when exposed to large amounts of death and suffering.

      Now there were those that didn’t have issues but they tended to be less than sane or have extensive practice shielding. Eldan is probably thinking that the hitokiri are more the former than the latter. After all, what kind of mind-speaker/empath would willingly enter a profession that mostly revolves around killing people?

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      1. This. Granted, Eldan has a long-standing relationship with a counter-example. Kerowyn is a pretty powerful Mind-Speaker.

        Also, he’s got Jin-e as an example of “very much not sane”.

        Kenshin doesn’t fit their boxes very easily. πŸ™‚

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      2. Kenshin doesn’t fit their boxes very easily.πŸ™‚

        Kenshin doesn’t fit into anyone’s box easily. He’s not a box person.

        Some of that is inborn. The rest of it I think we can trace to Hiko’s influence as he is so not a box person. Boxes refuse to go near Hiko.

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      3. You’re probably right. But – and I’m assuming this was an intentional implication on your part – in response to that last line: what does he think Heralds are?

        ‘Specially considering that the Heraldic Colleges /weren’t/ interested in Kamiya-Kasshin-Ryu, a style titled as ‘the sword that gives life’. Apparently Heraldic thinking is “Swords killed. That was all.”. And Heralds are trained in the sword.

        I know, Heralds are closer to /law enforcement/. But when it comes to the Pelagirs, how often does that duty require killing? Even outside the Pelagirs, Heralds /are/ military and /do/ go to war – from what I understand.

        I get this is Eldan’s own knee-jerk response. I guess I’m just unimpressed by the jumping to judgement. I hope that Kero takes a moment to remind him that not everywhere has the luxury of Companions. Most places simply have warriors, and training doesn’t care /who/ uses it. It works just as well for people trying their best as for people fulfilling your worst fears.

        Actually… maybe that’s how some people can get Hitokiri =\= Blood Mage – or at least =\= E~EEBIL – through thick Heraldic and Not-Horse heads. Kamiya-Kasshin-Ryu is all about using kata to protect and /not/ kill. But /even the Heraldic Collegium/ says that’s naΓ―ve. Hitokiri are not automatically law enforcement, they are warriors, and it’s a poor soldier who doesn’t use ready resources at his disposal to keep him and his alive.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Heralds typically don’t deal with the Pelagirs. That’s Hawkbrother territory. And dangerous.

        Part of what you need to look at is, outside of very rare things like the self-sacrifice of a Final Strike, the use of blood magic is known to injure the land and its inhabitants. That’s part of why Hardorn’s such a mess. It is dangerous, it is toxic, and it tends to be addictive. All the way from the Dhorisha Plains north, so far as we know, everyone who has any knowledge of magic agrees on that.

        So you might want to think of the Heraldic point of view as less “oh, he’s automatically evil!” than, “Are you trying to tell us the guy who blitzes out on the magical equivalent of PCP is really not crazy?”

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ah… Well, that’s what I get for arguing characterization for a setting I don’t know. Consider me edumacated.

        And it does sound like Hitokiri that aren’t careful do go that way eventually – given how Kenshin described Jin-E marks the assassin as a /known/ phenomenon. So the addiction and crazy making are still true, as long as you don’t maintain your shields.

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      6. Lack of interest in Kaoru’s family sword style is more likely institutional inertia and lack of time. If she were working for the Weaponsmaster, that would be one thing. If she’s just some Herald with an unusual weapon, then big deal.

        There are lots of Heralds who learned weapons before getting a Companion or get taught specialized styles for special assignments, but there are a lot more who just get taught the standard institutional style of whoever is Weaponsmaster.

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  3. >>Kerowyn is a pretty powerful Mind-Speaker.

    She Mindspoke with Eldan across countries for years and *didn’t realize she was doing it.* Powerful Mind-Speaker is a bit of an understatement.

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      1. I think it’s mentioned later that Need was behind that. In the Winds trilogy when she’s talking to Elspeth about difficult things she’s done, I think.

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      2. As I grew up, I came to the conclusion that it’s something like a Lifebond, and a combination of both of them reaching. Elden is a powerful Mind-speaker himself, and there have been some enormously powerful Mind-Speakers in the past. Granted, the most powerful was during the Cataclysm and a mage crafted griffin, and they *neutered her Gift to make allies more comfortable* and probably to remove the easy way to solve the issue in the last Griffin book.

        But given Kero has never been called on to use her Gift to a great extent we have no more comparative examples of her power.

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  4. Off topic warning. I am looking for a good fantasy book or set of books to get into. I am thinking something that is both a bit challenging and entertaining. I have done a little of the valdemar series and also the Vorkosigan series. Please point me well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Depends on what you like. If you’d like to read some of Lackey’s other stuff, I really like her Joust series, Elemental Masters, Diana Tregarde, and her Enduring Flame and Obsidian trilogies. If you like deep magic systems and worldbuilding and heavy subject material, I’d suggest Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series or Brandon Sanders’ Mistborn series. If you’re more on the urban fantasy end and like kickass female protagonists, I’d suggest Pat Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series or Seanan McGuire’s October Daye or InCryptid. And anything by Tamora Pierce is a good read, especially if you hit up her Circle of Magic first.

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    2. I’m liking Cherryh’s Morgaine books. I like Wen Spencer’s Tinker books, P.C. Hodgell’s Jamethiel books, Larry Correia’s MHI and Grimnoir books, Dave Weber’s Orfressa and Gate books, Bujold’s Sharing Knife and Chalion books, the Freer/Flint/Lackey Venice books, Elizabeth Moon’s Paks books, David Drake’s Lord of the Isles and Books of the Elements, most of Diana Jones, and Zelazny’s Amber.

      I’m interested in Jagi Lamplighter’s Griffin books, Ryk Spoor’s Phoenix books, and some others I can’t recollect easily. Well, the list is general is limited to poor memory and what I have handy to look at.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Forgot: I really loved John Wright’s Somewither. But it is first of a trilogy, and I haven’t seen the other two.

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      2. The other two Somewhither books aren’t out yet. But two of his Cobweb and Moth books are out (Arthurian and faerie stuff in the modern world), and there’s also The Iron Chamber of Memory, which is along the same lines but more adult and inception-y.

        The thing to remember about Wright is that if it seems like a plothole, watch that hole like a cat waiting for mice.

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    3. If you can find it? “Morlac: Quest of the Green Magician”, by Gary Alan Ruse.

      …Wow, looks like it was just reprinted in 2013; I have one of the original 1986 books.

      And frankly, you can’t go wrong with the early books in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. πŸ™‚

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    4. I will always recommend Jim Butcher to anyone, any time.
      His major series is The Dresden Files, which is urban magic, but that’s 14 books and counting (I cannot emphasize enough – read them IN ORDER).
      The Codex Alera series is six books (and has a very interesting backstory), it’s historical fantasy.
      The Cinder Spires is kind-of-steampunk, sort-of-space-opera, and there’s only one book so far, called The Aeronaut’s Windlass.
      All his series have lots of guile heroes (and heroines), richly textured characters – whether male, female, goodie or baddie – and Butcher has a real gift for Sinbad-level Moments of Awesome (the zombie T-Rex actually got mentioned in a Bleach fanfic!), and flavoured with liberal helpings of snark and funny one-liners. He has no problem writing strong women, kick-ass women, (and Butcher is one of the few writers I’ve come across who actually know that’s not always the same thing) and men who think either/or is awesome. Just a warning, though – he has no problem killing off characters you love, so be slightly cautious about getting attached.

      There’s also the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Radin (8 books long); starts with Once Bitten Twice Shy. Urban/military fantasy (the heroine’s a ex-military government operative dealing with supernatural threats).

      If you don’t mind stuff that’s technically for Young Adults, I’d recommend the Strange Angels series by Lili St Crow, (think Bella Swan raised by John Winchester!) as well as her stuff under the name Lilith Saintcrow, which is damn good too. Strange Angels and Dante Valentine are five books long, and Jill Kismet is six. All are urban fantasy, and the adult series (DV and JK) get extra warnings for violence and past sexual assault and torture (and not always past torture) of the heroines; Saintcrow herself is honest about having some really shitty stuff in her own background, and it comes out in her first two adult series. Whether St Crow or Saintcrow, she’s very much into Earn Your Happy Ending – and how! She’s also expanded into gaslight fantasy with Bannon and Claire (think expies of Sherlock Holmes and Morgana le Fay fighting monsters in Victorian London); there’s three books – the Iron Wyrm Affair, the Red Plague Affair, and the Ripper Affair – with a spinoff with different characters, The Damnation Affair.

      Further on the historical fantasy, Steven Harper wrote The Clockwork Empire : The Doomsday Vault, the Impossible Cube, The Dragon Men, and a spinoff called The Havoc Machine. But if you like your stuff with Jane Austen-style humour, then try Gail Carriger. The Parasol Protectorate is five books (start with Soulless), and comes in graphic novel form too. The sequel series, the Custard Protocols, is two books so far, and there’s a five-book prequel spinoff for YA.

      Umm… hope this helps… someone!

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    5. Well . . . if you never read them and you don’t mind satire and parody in your fantasy, there is always Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. There are a lot of books but they can be easily divided into sub-sections.

      I also recommend Good Omens which Sir Terry co-wrote with Neil Gaimon.

      Fair warning, there are many puns.

      And I found the writing can make me laugh and make me thoughtful.

      If you already read them, then you can always re-read them. πŸ™‚

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  5. How dark is OK? I tend to like in between, like David Weber has a decent fantasy trilogy, though the bad guys are gruesome, it isn’t on screen. For a fairly dark journey, but a bright end, Bujold has the Curse of Chalion series.

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  6. Gerald Morris does a great series on the various Authurian mythos. Anne Bishop does excellent world building, and Illona Andrews has major kick-ass women. If you want laughs, Robert Asperin (or Asprin; I forget which) and Spider Robinson are really good. Diane Duane is another excellent creator of modern magic. Michelle Sagara has a series about a magical cop who sidelines as a midwife and Maria Snyder writes about a poison taster turned ambassador/mage.

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    1. Diane Duane! the Young Wizards series was my very first actual book fandom, I think. I started reading it back in 1990, believe it or not.
      Also (forgot to mention it in my entry above); dunno if you can get it in the US, but Isobel Carmody has finally finished The Obernewtyn Chronicles this year (I started with the first one in 1988!!!!); it’s post-Apocalyptic fantasy, and is one of the few series I’ve come across that explicitly show that being The Chosen One is not only really hard work, it can make your life, and the lives of those that love you, royally suck.

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  7. Safehold series by David Weber is a great series.**Warning** Series begins with a Doorstopper and quickly moves to lethal weapon texts. Think Brittanica. Also Through The Looking Glass.Hard scifi series with a touch of kookoo. The only series i’ve ever read that has the phrase “Prepare to Gargalize!” That and the beer can.

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  8. …i knew i was going to get a good response but daaang.
    Can i just say i freaking love you mentioned the redwall series? As in i am going to pick it up again because you reminded me of how awesome it is. And then i may make my way through this list you all have provided….over the course of a year.

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  9. If you don’t mind going a little older and more traditional – Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Moon of Gomrath are back in print. Then there is Barbara Hambly’s Those Who Hunt by Night or Bride of the Rat God or Dog Wizard (she has a lot of good books out there). Robin McKinnley’s Sunshine or both retellings of Beauty or the Blue Sword. Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster books, Charles de Lint’s short stories, and finally Guy Gavriel Kay, who is hit or miss but I loved the Fionavar trilogy and the followup Isobel.

    Y’all have already mentioned a lot of my other favs.

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  10. A lot of what I’d recommend has already been mentioned. A couple more:
    All of Bujold’s fantasy is good.

    I’m an outlier, but I also like Cj Cherryh’s FORTRESS series. It’s… well, if you’ve tried CJC’s SF which is much more popular, you have a clue what her writing is like. … FORTRESS turns it to epic fantasy which concentrates on a ‘shaping’ a person whom we see called into existence and the prince of the kingdom. The kingom that has prophecies about a King who will Come … The prince is intelligent about it all (for once in fiction), and the shaping helps by being so child like in many ways that he is seen as weird, not (much) of a threat until… he isn’t. Then we get people realizing they’ve really got King Arthur or Merlin on their hands, and no one really believed in either , and what are the political ramifications, and What Do You Mean He’s Not Interested *in politics?!*
    The author did the POV of a very young person extremely well and the shift as things unfold to our shaping.. There are four books worth reading and a fifth I pretend doesn’t exist. #1 is FORTRESS IN THE EYE OF TIME.

    Helen Lowe’s WALL OF NIGHT quartet has 3/4s out, and while it starts out looking like bog-standard fantasy it goes *very* interesting places.

    Ryk E. Spoor (yes, that’s his real name) is working on a long planned set of 3 trilogies, one of which is finished, the Phoenix trilogy. It is flavored by his anime and game habits. If you’re here that probably won’t be a problem. Intelligent, well characterized, and interesting intersections with his PARADIGMS LOST take on our world, and I look forward to finding out more.

    Rachel Neumeier’s work might suit as well, She’s influenced by McKillip, Bujold, Kay…doesn’t go in for really dark stuff. One trilogy, the Griffin Mage, which starts with someone choosing to be less human, the second has one of my favorite intelligent women and the third remakes the shape of magic in the world. Another in progress is BLACK DOG, currently at 2 novels and two sets of short stories, one more novel (at least) coming. It’s a broken masquerade world. There had been a ‘miasma’ keeping normal people from noticing the vampires and werewolves in their midst. Then the wolves (black dogs here) make war on the vampires and discover the vampires were WHY people didn’t notice the predators… Neumeier’s most recent (as in just out a week or so back) is kingdom level SF/F in the looks like fantasy but hints of science underlying way. Highly political and the enemy is partly family. I need to post an Amazon review now that I’ve finished it.

    Alma Alexander has an assortment of things, one YA that my YA really liked. A very interesting werewolf trilogy that wasn’t really about werewolves it was about people and immigration and being afraid of the other, #1 is RANDOM. she dusted off her bio degree on the werewolfery. Also an alternate China duo, SECRETS OF JIN SHEI and EMBERS OF HEAVEN, and a standard epic fantasy pair CHANGER OF DAYS. and more! she doesn’t repeat herself.

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  11. Just about anything by Patricia C. Wrede is good. Her Enchanted Forest Chronicles books are amazing and funny to read YA, but her Lyra novels are good ones as well, if with a more serious tone and not YA. Andre Norton’s Witchworld novels are good.
    I also enjoyed Dennis McKiernan’s Shadowtrap and Shadowprey, and his Faerie series forms a huge role in my opinion of fairytales and they’re sad state of being parred down from epics.

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