Aria (latinusername) wrote,

OC Penpals!

So I got this idea from reading puella_nerdii's advice column thread, and thinking to myself, "Writing to one of Puel's characters as one of my characters? That sounds like fun! --But they don't know each other very well yet! What are they supposed to talk about?"

And then I thought to myself, "PENPAL THREAD," and that brings us up to now.

So what is it?

Write to any of my OCs as any of your OCs! Or at least as a character you want practice with. Letters can be as long as you like or as short as you like. My characters will reply! They can have conversations, get to know each other, share things about their lives, ask each other questions, whatever suits their fancy. I always think it's a useful character development thing to let characters talk to new people. And our heads are all full of new people!

This sounds like fun--but I don't know you that well! I don't want to put my lame/stupid/boring/underdeveloped OCs on your thread and be a big exasperating no-clue-having party-annihilator! Should I just keep my mouth shut? Oh God, how are you reading my mind, this is creepy make it stop--

Please don't be shy, even if we've barely spoken before. =D I would still love to get to know some of your characters, and I'm sure we'd have a lot of fun!

Okay, who can I write to? What might they want to talk about for starters?

Okay, limiting this to characters from Gilded Souls who I am working on currently:

Michel de Baschi is a prickly-but-compassionate high society gent who cares about clothes, and art, and Catholicism, and being better than everybody else, but in a gracious way. He lives on a ship, which he hates, and is not suited for at all, but he's very loyal to his best friend who-is-the-captain, so he's stuck there. He has a lot of things to say about madness and doubting one's own sanity, if that's something your OC can relate to. Write to Michel for a more cerebral conversation, or if you want to exchange sordid and titillating stories (he has thousands).

Pallas Demopoulos is a sexy backstabbing genius. She gets into a lot of bad (read: dramatastic) relationships, mostly because she's addicted to stress. She grew up in an unfortunate boarding school in Constantinople, which gave her a fairly advanced grasp of moral relativism (and a pretty solid grounding in prison mentality). Not a bad choice of penpal for your scumbags and monsters (she doesn't judge), or anybody who enjoys a challenge.

Kent (just Kent) is fifteen years old and an apprentice magician and conman. He and his master travel all over the world doing magic, spying on people, and stealing things. He ran away from home when he was seven years old (for damn good reasons), and he has a lot of Feelings about his family. He's also bi-racial, which he's received a moderate amount of shit for in his life. He lives to be useful and valued. As a correspondent, you can count on him to be friendly, inquisitive, and very talkative.

And from the secondary cast:
Jefferson DeValk is a former soldier--on paper. He's one of those guys who never really stops being a soldier. He joined a rebellion that didn't work out, and then no army would take him. Sure, he could become a mercenary, but he's got some Goddamned principles. These days he boxes on the underground and does a lot of drinking. Write to Jefferson for Guy Talk.

Marianne Banas does not need your shit. Do you have shit? She is not your shit customer. If you also have problems with being fed shit, people giving you shit, or everything turning to shit, Marianne can probably empathize. She wants to change the world and she's not interested in your "reasons" for why that won't work, which you probably arrived at via some suspect method such as "thinking." Marianne doesn't need to think. Marianne KNOWS.

Wow, that was a lot of words. Okay, can I write to more than one character at once?

Please write to one character at a time, from one character at a time, at least until their conversation is rolling. =D

Thanks so much, guys, I hope we have fun!
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Mr. de Baschi (if that is the correct salutation),

Thank you for agreeing to this correspondence. I'll be frank: I'm out of the habit of letter-writing and haven't had cause to do so for quite some time, as most of my associates serve with me on the Maehriya and can shout for me if they wish to talk, so please excuse any errors in form. (The content must stand on its own.)

Your own ship intrigues me. I understand you are not primarily a sailor, and I sympathize, but you still have more experience with it than I. I can guess at some of its workings, but Sassen ships are generally unfamiliar to me, and ships such as yours that bear some Sassen features but have some features I do not recognize are even more so. I also understand you have a talent for finances. Though I have served on merchant vessels, I have been a mercenary, not an accountant. As the Maehriya turns towards more commercial ventures, I would be interested to learn more about what your job entails. I may not be the person who needs to cover such functions (though given our current crew, I suspect I will be), but someone does need to manage our finances. The Council of Elders has been -- reluctant -- to subsidize us since the conclusion of our conflict with Sassen.

I am also intrigued by your style of dress. I rarely have much time these days to attend to my own appearance, but I can appreciate it when people do. Your clothing bears some resemblance to what I've seen in Sassen ports, but there are marked differences -- and differences between your own dress and those of your crewmates. Do all men dress as you do, where you're from, or only men of a certain status, or is it personal affectation?

Thank you again, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Khari du'Arath
Dear Miss du'Arath,

(And please accept my apologies if that is incorrect--but as we've only just met it would amuse me too much to ask already if you are married)

Thank you for your comprehensive and exceedingly polite interest. On the subject of the ship, unfortunately, I must beg you to inquire elsewhere. It floats, on the water; it's made of metal, for the most part, except for where it is made of wood, and it has an engine, which makes a great deal of noise and which I have as little to do with as possible. Generally, as I understand it, one tries not to let it sink. I have expended considerable effort to ensure that my knowledge extends no further.

If the opportunity arises, you may want to bring the subject up with my friend Isaac Grey, who is the captain of the Magog. On the other hand, you may not, since once you start a conversation with Isaac about the Magog you rapidly begin to feel like you will never have the opportunity to talk about anything else for the rest of your life. It takes days of drinking to restore my ignorance and my equinamity to the level at which I prefer it.

As for financial matters:

To say that I have a 'talent' for finance is, unfortunately, to overstate my capacities. But I have an exceptional education in finance, and had actually made a respectable career out of it before my life went in an abruptly nautical direction. My duties aboard the Magog (at least, the ones pertaining to finance; not my duties which pertain to making certain that the captain is sober, not bleeding too much, temper is in reasonable check, etc) are threefold.

First, I inventory. This is exceptionally tedious, but apparently I am the only one aboard the ship who can count, and arrive at the same numbers every time. Oh--the Magog is a pirate vessel: I should most likely mention that. So, we capture ships, and take whatever we can find on them, etc. Sorting out what all of that is is my responsibility.

Second, I track markets. This is not something pirate operations generally bother with, but pirate operations do not often have extremely bored Ca' Foscari-educated financiers who wield sufficient influence with the captain to request sudden detours to Tenochtitlan or wherever, so. Keeping up to date with stock indexes when one is at sea for weeks at a time is, surprisingly, not especially easy to do. I am on very familiar and not always cordial terms with our radio operator. At any rate, once I have identified the best market for our stolen goods, I arrange for the sales.

Third, I manage our investments. I know it is not especially piratical to invest one's lucre in pork futures, or whatever it is at the moment, but I must admit that's part of why I enjoy it.

Needless to say we are extremely rich for such a small operation. Of course Isaac just spends most of it on the ship. Presumably, to some effect. I do my best not to inquire.

And you asked about my clothes! I like you. Well, I suppose it's a personal affectation (but isn't everything?); I appreciate beautiful things, and clothes are no different. I dress thoughtfully, and with taste, and I am willing to set aside money to satisfy my taste. There is not much more to it than that. So far as specific peculiarities of my wardrobe are concerned, you may be noticing what we call 'clockwork detailing.' The clothes of my world always have concealed details. Call it couture's response to the malaise of general society, but our clothes are nearly always more interesting on the inside, or upon very close inspection, than they are at first glance.

I hope you are answered, or at the very least amused. If you are of a mind to, please write back about your own situation aboard the Maehriya, and how you came to be there. I understand that she is, or was, a warship.

Yours sincerely, Baschi Baschi,

I am answered -- and somewhat amused. (In response to your first question: no, I am not married. I'll remain miss for a while longer yet. Perhaps a long while indeed.)

I will leave the duty of making inquiries about your ship itself to my captain, should he wish to make them. Jho and Mr. Grey would have much to discuss, and after a certain point my knowledge would be of no more consequence than yours. (I should say instead that we would both find ourselves so lacking that it wouldn't matter who lacked more.)

I do thank you for your detailed descriptions of your duties aboard the Magog. And your investments, while not in line with your profession, are sensible. I suspect the systems of investment in our worlds work differently, but I have persuaded Jho to put some of our (and his grandmother's) capital in trade goods rather than -- to be frank, I'm not always certain what Jho wishes to spend money on. Nor is he, I suspect. We may not need a financier aboard of your ability, but we ought to have someone look at our inventory. Presumably the task will fall on me. I may need to request your advice as to how best to sort it out.

What you call clockwork detailing fascinates me. It isn't widely practiced in our world, or not in the parts of it I have seen, but there was something similar where I grew up. There were messages encoded in the patterns of our clothes: signals of status and clan and where we had traveled, primarily. It has been a long time since I have worn them. Your discussion of clothing style as a manifestation of your society's malaise also interests me. A certain ambiguity is valued in Haradh, but it isn't the same as uneasiness.

The Maehriya was indeed a warship, and you'll have to ask her captain what she is now, as he has not yet made up his mind. At present, we are a collection of those men and women who have no better place to go, trading what we can and resorting to the occasional act of piracy when we cannot. The headwoman of Jho's line, Dura, has been kind enough to outfit us with provisions and fill our hold with trading goods, though none of us have her knowledge of the markets to know where best to bring them. Currently, we have a large cargo of cassava and a smaller one of various spices and medicinal plants. Valuable enough, but a number of ports are closed to us due to the Maehriya's former service record, and none of us yet feel ready to attempt the journey to Qing.

I mentioned in my last letter that the Maehriya was not the first vessel I served aboard, and that I had been a mercenary. Specifically, after several years of training in Jasaam and after several years more serving in Malketh to the south, I joined a Jasaamite company contracted to protect what remained of the Ohri mercantile fleet. (The Ohri are Dura's clan. Though I am forbidden to know much of their politics, I know she holds considerable influence in it, and was instrumental in selecting the last man appointed to speak for the Ohri at the Council of Elders.) What remained, I say, because Haradh was under Sassen rule at the time, and Sassen had destroyed or co-opted most of their our commercial interests and capacity for trade. A year or so after our contract began, a sizable contingent of young Haradhi (and young Daivan, like myself -- or like I was) began harassing Sassen forces, and though none of them were able to rally full clan support at first, Sassen took it as an act of war. Dura and her allies swayed the Ohri to support the resistance, and I was left in a difficult position. Jasaam was neutral; we could, if we wished, sign a new contract with the Ohri, or we could leave, as the terms of our old contract no longer applied.

I stayed. I, and half the company. The rest left, including our captain, but he appointed me acting captain in his stead.



January 24 2011, 22:55:09 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  January 24 2011, 23:34:07 UTC

I rose faster in what we had of ranks much more quickly than I anticipated, much more quickly than I would have under any other circumstances. But those are stories for another time, or for another letter. I came to be aboard the Maehriya because during my second year of service, we captured Jho.

He deserted his post in the Sassen Royal Navy to fight for Haradh, he said; his reasons were, and are, his own. I make no secret of the fact that I did not trust him initially, but his knowledge of the enemy navy proved useful, and he has a peculiar talent for resolving impossible situations in even more impossible ways. It fell to me -- and has fallen ever since -- to keep some of his wilder plans in check, fit them into broader operations, take care of the details he has overlooked, and clean up the fallout.

It may seem as though I resent him for this. I don't. We exasperate each other at times, but I can think of no man more loyal to those he loves, and I cannot count the number of times he has risked his own safety (and life) to preserve mine. He makes me believe the strangest things, but I want to believe them, in a way I rarely have anything else.

Our current Maehriya is constructed from the hull of the last one, which is why her name remains the same. She was a gift from Dura; we needed a fast and maneuverable ship with a relatively small crew to perform our sabotages and escape in time, and there is little Dura wouldn't give Jho should he earn the right to ask for it. During the final battle of the conflict with Sassen, at Waeyanle, Jho set her afire and sailed into the flagship of the fleet. It was a near thing. She almost burned before we reached the admiral's ship, but we'd predicted the wind well. He dueled Admiral Hanson in single combat and slew him, and when the rest of us secured the flagship, Hanson's second-in-command negotiated a peace.

The peace left us free but jobless, so we had the Maehriya rebuilt and enlarged her cargo hold. In addition to what I have previously described, we harass Sassen shipping lines. I am her first mate. In addition to overseeing the Maehriya's cargo operations and its crew, I am responsible for the safety and security of the ship. In theory, I also oversee its maintenance, but Aia and Sheval are more knowledgeable of the Maehriya's workings than I. I train the crew and look after their welfare, and inevitably resolve any disputes that arise aboard.

I would be interested to hear how you met your captain if, again, you are of a mind to do so. He sounds a fascinating man.

Khari du'Arath
Dear Miss Du'Arath,

I agree; Isaac is a fascinating man. I am sorry to report that our meeting was less dramatic than yours with your captain. We were twelve years old. I was a new arrival in Boston—in the British territories altogether—and very out of place. Overdressed, oddly mannered, nervy and snappish (I had been recently separated from my family), and it didn't help that I was French. Isaac and I attended neighboring schools which were engaged in a longstanding rivalry. (That same year, his father would receive a promotion, and Isaac would transfer to my school, which was more prestigious.) We first crossed paths in the public garden which lay between our campuses, and for my part I ignored him, since he was (one could tell just by looking at him) an ill-tempered, belligerent hooligan (and I was correct in my assessment).

I should mention that Isaac takes specific offense whenever anyone tries to ignore him, and that he has a remarkable gift for saying precisely whatever it is that will make you want to kill him. I'm fortunate in that I can't remember what it was that he said. I'm sure if I could, I would hit him again.

So, we thrashed each other. It was such a scene that the proctor from Isaac's school was summoned to separate us. As you may know, there is no greater bonding experience for young boys than to come out as equals in a fight and then lie about it together to the authorities. By sundown, we were already something like friends.

Sometimes, when he smiles, you can see where I broke one of his teeth.

It occurs to me that I say a great many unflattering things about Isaac. Please understand that I do this because I love him. Anything I say about him, I say with the deepest affection, but he remains an ill-tempered hooligan and a great many other things besides.

It is interesting to me that Daivan couture affects a mannerism which I think of as so Chinese, where messages in one's clothes--particularly family affiliations, signals of status, and which branch of Confucianism the wearer adheres to—are omnipresent. It is axiomatic that in Chung Kuo there are two written languages (hanzi and embroidery) and outsiders can't make any sense of either. The Aztecs have somewhat adopted this tendency, as have a number of the East Asian kingdoms, of course. The daimyos of Japan actually have two systems of embroidery (neither of them so complicated as the Chinese system, however), which differ in patterns used and in the style of stitching, for clothes that they wear when they are at home and clothes that they wear when they travel.

There are many kinds of clockwork detailing. The Romaioi favor intersticed, nearly identical fabrics, which, upon close inspection, may depict pastoral scenes, or Orthodox iconography. The caliphates of northern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula place an emphasis on drapery, concealing bright swaths of color within the natural folds of their clothes. Distinctive to Western Europe and its colonial holdings is a fixation on the interiors of one's clothing, the insides of cuffs and collars and lapels and so on, where metallic thread, cloth of gold, or Kanjeevaram silk may be laid in to catch the light. And so on.

You mentioned a few times a clan headwoman; is Haradhi culture, then, matriarchal? I would be glad to hear it. There are few matriarchal or matrilineal cultures in my own world. (I am ashamed to say that the natural fragility of the female sex is still endlessly forwarded as an explanation as to why). Equality of the sexes is, here, treated as most other forms of social justice: as an enemy of Tradition, which is our only bulwark against chaos. There of course has been (maddeningly gradual) progress, but if your world features in general less ignorance, arrogance, and mean spirit than my own, I have to say that I envy you.

It sounds as if the contour of your life is not so different from mine. I do my best to temper my captain, resolve difficulties among the crew, introduce tact to any situation that seems in need of it, and draw as little attention as possible to my own place of origin. I am still struggling to eradicate my accent. It always comes out when I start drinking.

Yours sincerely,
Michel de Baschi.
May this letter find you well Mr. Kent,

This letter is to inquire about the specifics for your small canon. I did not want to assume measurements. I also needed to inquire what the last paragraph of the letter was about as I could make it out, perhaps the ink ran a bit somehow. Of course it may also just be a dialect I am not familiar with, please excuse my ignorance in that case, I often find myself at that disadvantage. I am sorry that I could not begin your project as soon as your letter was handed to me as I always try to do. I hope this delay has not caused you inconvenience.

May the winds blow favorably for you,
Master of Explosives at Tolly's
Dear Sig,

Did I order a cannon? I mean, obviously I did, because you got the order, and it has my name on it, which you have. My name, I mean, not the order. Although you also have that. What I'm saying is, I don't remember ordering a cannon, but now that I know I could potentially have a cannon in my life I'm definitely interested in getting one.

Did I already pay for the cannon? That's an important question. If I haven't paid for the cannon already, I might have to ask my master how much money we have lying around for cannon-related purchases. Hopefully that is plenty. Who could say no to a cannon? We'd find something to do with it. I mean, nobody expects you to just have a cannon. It's definitely got that element of surprise thing going for it.

Okay, so, measurements for the cannon. Um, all right...well, it has to fit in our wagon. Or roll behind it--cannons have wheels, don't they? Could you put the cannon on wheels and then give it an axle or something, and we could hitch it to the back of the wagon? Then I guess it could be a bigger cannon. But that sort of ruins the element of surprise factor, doesn't it, if the cannon is just out in the open. Okay, let me think.

Yeah, I guess the cannon has to hide in the wagon.

All right, so the wagon is being pulled by two draft horses, and it's twelve feet long and eight feet wide and it's made of wood with a lot of steel reinforcements. I bet we could carry a couple hundred pounds worth of cannon without straining the horses, at least in the summer months--we might have to store the cannon somewhere for the winter. Plus the ordinance for it--is that the right word? For the cannon balls and things?

What are cannons for?

Anyway, does that tell you anything useful? Please get back to me about what else you might need, because I really want a cannon now. How did you get into the cannon-making business, anyway? Is that a hard thing to pick up? I guess it involves a lot of gunpowder. Maybe that's not so safe.

- Kent.
May this letter find you well Mr. Kent,

I suppose that Jareth's assumption that you were, I meant this in the politest way, inebriated while writing this were correct. You have indeed paid for it already and I am glad that you are still interested, I would have sent the money back if you hadn't of course.

I can make a cannon small enough to be supported on the arm while fired, the force of one of those is enough to puncture wood and thin metal that is less than four inches thick. It is also possible for me to make grapeshot. The disadvantage of that cannon is the limited force and the fact that I am the only one who makes the size of cannonballs for it as I am its inventor. If that size is not acceptable than please just name a size you would prefer as well as whether you would want a metal or wood carriage and whether you would want to have it able to be taken part for ease of transport.

Cannons are for blowing building and people up primarily. I apologize if you meant this as a rhetorical question.

I need nothing but your specifics. Your payment was enough to cover everything as well as two to three dozen cannonballs depending on size. I am not in the cannon-making business, I am in the business of inventing and then creating explosive weapons. It was the business that I found myself most adapt at when I had to find a job to support myself. It wasn't too much a transition except for the technology leap and suddenly having to account for magic. Yes there is a lot of gunpowder, but it is not so unsafe as long as I am careful.

May the winds blow favorably for you,
Master of Explosives at Tolly's

P.S- I apologize for the blood stains, please be assured that they are just from a lamb, I was writing at the table and Jareth was a little messy.
Dear Sig,

What's grapeshot? Also, yeah, my questions are never rhetorical. I don't know anything about guns and explosives and artillery and Selwyn is saying "chemical combustibles," and I'm guessing he doesn't just mean, like, kerosene. It's never come up before now! Also, it's a bad idea for magicians to use weapons like that, where I'm from. Everything goes wrong for us more often and more spectacularly than it does for ordinary people. You don't meet a lot of magicians who are also gun enthusiasts, at least not ones who still have both their hands.

But man, a cannon. I can't say no.

If I was drunk I'm really sorry, I try not to let that happen too often. I'm not a big drinker usually, but that's a lot because I can't hold my liquor, so I can kind of see myself drinking something I didn't know was as, you know, alcoholic as it was, and then somehow the night ended with me placing an order for a cannon. I mean, that seems like a logical progression. And you're saying you can make ones that fit on your arm? That's so great! Can I have one of those, then? The carriage would be the thing the cannon is braced on, right? Wood would probably be better, it doesn't sound as heavy.

Do you do this kind of thing by individual contract a lot? It seems like an explosives expert would be working for the government or some military operation. What kind of school did you have to go to to learn all these things? I'm guessing you studied chemistry and metallurgy and, I don't know, blacksmithing? Is that something they teach in schools? Like I said, sorry for my ignorance, this has never come up for me before.

I am pretty sure that somebody telling you that you can have a cannon when you're fifteen years old is a sign that we live in a just universe. I'm going to bring this up with Selwyn the next time he decides to teach me philosophy.

- Kent.

PS: Oh, and don't worry about the blood stains, I figured whatever it was, that was your business.


6 years ago

(Honestly, this is a brand new character I'm working on with a friend. He's so new, in fact, that we don't have a name for him, so I suppose for now he'll just be 'PK'? It's what we call him, it means 'Peasant King'. Due to only having JUST learned to read and write, I thought maybe he should write in slightly fractured grammar with some spelling inaccuracies, but certainly not chatspeak, txt, etc.. If that's not okay, please go ahead and tell me to GTFO your thread >.<)

Too Michal de Bazhi Basci Basschi,

Gretings from my kingdom! Wel, i don't think it's oficialy one yet, but my friends and i are working hard on it! Its a bit of land no one else wanted, so i started living there! Its so awesom!
Im writing too you becuase my advyser avysoor tooter too- guy who helps me learn stuff says i need practis writing, and he said i need to talk with peopl who write good! Its so that other countries wil take me siriusly seriously!
Ass you can tell, i dont write good. I just started learning! I dont kno how the little kids do it so good! The guy who learns me says a six yeer old writes beter than me! Six is alot smaler than what i am! Im old enof enough too work on a plow, even be maried! So i realy need your help, mister Basschi. If you help me, then maybe i can help you! My kingdom is realy nice- we got a fortress and farms and everything! Maybe you can come visit? Then you can see i talk beter than i write. Ive been talking a lot longer than ive been writng!


(That's totally okay! It's a really cool approach to the format! =D)

To his Royal Majesty,

Please accept my congratulations and encouragement: I am always pleased to see anyone working to improve themselves. May I ask after your situation? It seems that you have come into a great deal of education very quickly.

You say you are a king of nowhere in particular; I confess I have never met a king before, although I was rather well-acquainted with a prince, at one point, but still, you are the most noble individual it has ever been my pleasure to converse with. How did you first learn that you were a king? Who was it that told you? Do you know what has become of your royal family? How are you a king with no kingdom to inherit?

I would assure you that you need not labor unduly at your letters; no king I have ever heard of pens his own correspondence if he is not of a temper to do so. Sad to say there have been royals of very august kingdoms indeed, with access to the finest education from a young age, who still would not express themselves in writing any better than yourself.

I am, at your Service,
Michel de Baschi.
(XD thanks! *dances*)

To his Mister Baschi,
Wow, ive never had someone call me a royal majesty before!
I hope i got your name rit this time! You have a realy intersting name- i havent heard one like it at leest.
What situation do you need to wate for too ask me something? I dont think something will happen?
Yeah, i wanna learn realy quick, beacuse i think that if you have a king, you want him to be...wel red? I dont know what that means, but my tutor says its a good thing.

Too be fair, im not a noble at al, nun of my family too! I decided i want to be a king, so i just thogt, what does a king got have that makes him a king? And i said, wel... he needs a kingdom! So me and my friends left our farms, we wasnt serfs thouh! We was free men and there ladys, so we didnt belong to the maner. My tutor met me and he told me about a land no one owned, so we got setled there. Its a lot of mountans, so its hard to farm. Guess its why noone wanted it! But we are farmers, except my tutor, so weve ben figuring it al out!

Wow, so not al the kings kno how to write? Wel, i think writing and reading is important anyway. You know, i don't want too just write leters for king stuff! Personal leters are good too! I write too you, since were friends now, and i also want too write to the prince in the kingdom next too mine. His name is Gavriil, but he spels it with leters i can't read, and hes the reasun i want too be a king. In thees parts, you cant marry a prince unles your a noble too. I met him by luck a year ago, when he went to see the king from were i was born! Al the people love him, and tel alot of things about him, but then i got too find out it was rite! Hes gentel and polite and realy intela smart. He told me he doesnt want to find another lord too mary, and he doesnt want a queen consert too! But i really think im in love with him, so i want too write leters too him so he knos. I want too learn his leters too, but now i think i cant do al that! Gavriil knos my leters, so ill use those now.

At your service? Do you want too be part of my kingdom too?

Thanks for writing me,

Just Kent, that's really it? That's stupid. Anyway.

Don't show this letter to anyone else, and especially don't talk about it either, but how good would you say you are at magic exactly? Because I think I need some. Or to get rid of some. Nobody around here will tell me how that works, except that I should get things in writing first if I'm smart so that's why I'm writing you.

Anyway, what kind of magic do you do and what's it good for? You're not from some mountain, are you? My father says all the real magic things live in the mountains, but they're wrong and they make rotten deals and I don't want one of those. You'd better not try to give me one, I'll know if you try. But if you tell me what you can do and if there's something you need that I know more about than you, maybe we can help each other. Fair trades are better for everyone, right?

I'm serious about not telling anyone, though. If you can't keep a secret you're not much good to me at all.

-Senka Gavaric


January 22 2011, 07:52:47 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  January 22 2011, 13:38:08 UTC


Sure, I can keep secrets. My master wouldn't have kept me around if I couldn't.

Yeah, okay, you definitely don't want the magic that comes from the mountains. That's the kind of magic that splits your skin open like a cracked cucumber, and not even predictably so it's not like you can plan on it, if those are the kinds of plans you have. The only people who go to the mountains are lunatics, criminals, and missionaries. Although, you know, you hear stories, about what it's like up there, with the entropy storms, and apparently it's really interesting to watch, if your eyes don't melt out of your head. I don't know, I kind of go back and forth on whether or not I'd want to see it.

Anyway, how good am I at magic? I'm pretty good. My illusions can usually take in a packed room--maybe fifty people?--and can involve lots of objects, although I'm not so hot at environments yet, I can't seem to get the light right. I have a few tells, but mostly they're things you'd have to know my style to pick out. And I'm really good at nonvisual illusions, like weight and smell and resonance (not taste though, if anybody tells you they can do taste reliably, they're lying to you). So if you need something swapped for another thing, or you want to send secret messages or create a distraction, or something like that, I can handle it.

Things no illusionist can do is invisibility, homunculi, or actual conjuration, although some illusionists are so good you'd swear it was real. And there are ways to see through even the best illusions, but you have to know what those are first, sorry if I don't just tell you straight out but my livelihood kind of depends on this.

If you want a REALLY good magician, though, you'll want to talk to Master Branch. He's my teacher. The things he can do are just amazing. I mean, I know all apprentices talk up their masters, but seriously, my master is one of the best magicians in the world. I've seen him make illusions of hurricanes, or a whole city catching on fire, that fooled thousands of people and lasted for hours and hours. I mean, he made the stink of the smoke stick to their clothes, and their hair mat in their faces. I'm pretty sure he's even made himself invisible, not that he'd ever admit it to me. And he's always looking for work, especially if the job is interesting.

What do you need done, anyway? Magic's not something people really need unless the situation's pretty desperate. It has a tendency to backfire and turn all the windows in your house to sand, or make your teeth fall out, or make water run up the walls, and that makes people a little uneasy.

- Kent.
Dearest P,

First off, I must thank you for one of the most delightful nights of my life. You are without a doubt the very loveliest woman I have ever had the privilege of consorting with. But I confess that curiosity has gotten the better of me, and at the risk of appearing rude, I must ask what exactly you have done with the body. It would not do for some uppity, talentless copper to discover it and trace the deed back to us.

Forever yours,

[okay I kind of made this character up on the spot and it shows, but anyways this note is addressed to Pallas and this guy Adrian is sort of a male chauvinist.]
[Hahaha, I can dig it!]

My dear Adrian,

What a pleasure to hear from you again so soon. You are as solicitous as ever. I still have half the wine you gave me at the beginning of the evening; we should finish it together, don't you think?

I assure you, you have no need to worry about the 'arrangements.' As a member of the Tribunal I am above the inquiries of the common police force, and my fellow Inquisitors would take no particular interest in this case as I believe our new friend was fully paid up on all his taxes. Of course, whether the same is true of you I couldn't say; you may want to be certain your papers are in order, in case anyone should drop by over the next few days.

As for the specifics of the arrangements, rest assured I was discreet, but you must forgive me for not committing the details to paper. It isn't that I don't trust you, dear, you know that.

Mr. de Baschi,

Please forgive me for taking the liberty of writing to you when I am sure you have so many more uses for your valuable time than reading any letter of mine, and forgive me for any mistakes I may put down on paper, for I am quite tired. I was told to write to you by a distant acquaintance who suggested it might do me some good, though her manner concealed much about your person. If you are offended in any way, please pay this no mind. I am but an Intellectual, so you may well think it is of little worth to reply. From my acquaintance's manner, it seems that you may be of our ilk, though I have heard that where you live that they have no Intellectuals at all, and I should like to hear more about it if that is so. I have never heard of such a land as that and I find myself naturally curious. My other half has cautioned me that it is foolish to ask you about such things or even think of them myself, as it causes delays in my work and a melancholy mind, but I am writing this as I take a quick break. Rest assured I will return to my duties shortly!

I apologize for the haphazard nature of this correspondence. I noticed that my first paragraph is quite long, but as I have written in ink I suppose there is nothing to be done. And it seems rather rambling, as this paragraph is quickly turning out to be. I am used to writing letters only to my other half, and as she will simply ignore pages of nonsense, I fear you will read them all before you realize I tend to do this. My papers are more concise! Thoughts of my papers lead me to my main inquiry: while I am trained in economics, I am having difficulty with my current situation, and thought that perhaps you might give me advice. In an uncontrolled, competitive market, is there any feasibly way to stop rampant inflation without forcing a vast increase in production? The inflation mostly affects my "input costs" column, decreasing the overall profit of the household, and as you may suspect this puts me in quite a delicate situation. If you are uninterested in such matters or have no particular advice, I understand completely. Anything at all may help; I am at my wit's end; I am so tired I believe new words will help my mind cultivate new ideas.

Though this may seem impertinent, I wish to remain anonymous. The climate at this time is not conducive to mercy, particularly for writing a letter to anyone outside the borders of the Alliance. The return address indicated on this letter is that of the Intellectual school I attended. Please simply address any reply to "Ace-Wit" at the Intellectual school address, and those whom I trust will know who that is, and she will forward any correspondence to me.

Thank you.

Post-script (though it seems a bit odd to write one without having signed): If I may ask, is there a kind of art in particular that you enjoy? I have always had an interest in tapestries and paintings, but have recently developed a fascination with sculpture, though I have not had time to pursue scholarship in that area.

Post-post-script (I believe this is the first time I've ever written one): I am simply asking anyone I can think of about this, and since I am writing this anyway: In your opinion, what is the minimum amount of sleep humans need on average per night to stay healthy and sane?

Thank you again.


January 23 2011, 08:05:48 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  January 23 2011, 08:08:00 UTC

Dear Kent,

It is a relief to be able to skip the long introduction that is ordinarily tacked to the top of my letters. I never have to write it out myself, of course, it comes embossed on the paper, but I correspond with enough titled people to know that there always is a temptation to simply skim until I get to the interesting bits. Or at least to the point where the writing starts up in ink. I will not inflict that temptation on you. Instead, I will try to be succinct. (I am not as good at this as I would like to be).

My name is Eleanore, and I am the Princess Royal of the British Empire. I am also only slightly older than you, perhaps not even a whole year. When is your birthday? Mine is in March. March 14th. If you were born before December, we could have been in the same year at school! Provided we had both ever been to a proper school, instead of being supplied with the singular educations that we have.

I am actually very curious about your studies. Obviously you have lessons under your master, but do you ever have to do mathametics, or memorize poetry, or practice with languages? If the answer is no, I think I am a little jealous. I sometimes wish that I only had to study the things that interest me. Or that I am good at. (This cuts most of the sciences out of the picture, but I wouldn't miss them too terribly.)

But I am losing the trail of my question. Tell me, what do does your training entail? The Crown does not endorse the practice of your art, as I am sure you know, but I have seen wonderful illusions in foreign courts from time to time. You would not believe the fabulous things the Venetians can do! Or perhaps you would. Perhaps you are every bit as talented. I have heard from our common acquaintances that you are quite good. Try to fool me with something clever when we finally meet face to face, all right?

I really do think we should try to meet, even though it might be difficult. We both travel a great deal. Do you ever get tired of it? I get sick of the going, but not of being places. Though you and I must see very different things, even if we spend time in the same locations, don't you think? Can you pick a favorite? Even out of the past year? I have terrible time narrowing my list down further than ten. Though--maybe you will like this--I saw a gigantic squid pickled in a glass tank in the Royal Museum of the Kingdom of Bohemia several months ago. I remember it very well; each sucker on its tentacles was three times the size of my hand! Does your master ever take you to museums in your travels? If you go to Bohemia, you really must visit the squid. It is horrible.

Yours sincerely,
Dear Princess Eleanore,

Am I allowed to call princesses "dear?" I'm really sorry if I'm not. I know there's a lot of protocol when it comes to talking to princesses, and I don't think I know any of it. I know you're "Your Highness." That's about it. My master and I move in pretty high circles sometimes, but never anywhere THAT high.

So, I really hope I don't offend you and then you decide to behead me, or anything. (That's a joke. I'm pretty sure nobody beheads anybody anymore.)

My birthday is June 7th, so I think you're a full year and a couple of months older than me. But if you'd rather we were closer in age, you can imagine me with any birthday you want. I don't mind.

I've got a pretty good education, actually! There are some gaps in it, but I think my master enjoys teaching me things, and seeing how fast I can pick it up. And a lot of disciplines contribute to being better at magic. Maths, for example. I studied a lot of geometry and physics, and even a bit of calculus, because it helps me understand how to make my illusions behave and interact with the world around them.

I had to read a little bit of poetry, but not much. Selwyn got me to read as much literature as I needed to so that I'd be able to have conversations about it with rich people who read a lot of books. I had a very strategic reading list. I'm not much of a reader, to be honest. After a couple hours I start wanting to do something. But I've read many of the more obscure classics (but not a whole lot of the big classics, because nobody is impressed if you can talk about those--this is how Selwyn puts it, you understand, so I hope you're not offended if you're really, really into Hamlet, or something). And every so often some new book or collection of poetry is put out and everybody is talking about it, so I have to read that, too. It's honestly the part of my education I enjoy the least.

I have to learn a LOT of languages. As of now I'm fluent in English, French, and Italian (although my Italian could still be better), and I'm patchy but getting better at Greek, Welsh, and I've started on Nahuatl. I really really hope Selwyn lets me stop there. At least he doesn't want me to learn Latin. I like learning languages all right. Drilling it is pretty boring, and I usually do it for at least an hour or two a day, but it's very satisfying to go to other countries and be able to talk to people. When we're stuck for a while in a country where I can't talk to anybody, it gets very lonely.

If you want me to fool you I'll sure try, but I'd rather try to impress you, if it's all the same.

I don't really get tired of traveling, no, but it might help you to understand that my master and I never really stop traveling. We live in a wagon and we're always going somewhere. If the wagon is stopped in a city for a few weeks, there's still always that feeling like we could pick up again and move on any moment. I've never really had a home that felt like home and that stayed in one place. Maybe when I was very young, and I lived with my mother, but I don't remember that time well, and mostly what I know about it comes from things my father told me years later. So for me, traveling is just a state of being. I don't know if I'd like living in one place. It seems like I would eventually want to go somewhere else, no matter how much I liked where I was.

I think my favorite place that I've ever been was Granada, even though we were only there for three days. It was sunny and dry and beautiful, and the white domes of the mosques looked like reflections of the clouds. Everything was very noisy and fast and covered in gold, even the dirt was gold, and it would float in dust clouds on every corner where people walked enough to kick it up. So everyone's white clothes would be stained gold around the hem. I didn't understand any of the languages people were speaking, which made me sad, except for Italian down at the docks. But I wanted to talk to them in Tamajeq so I wouldn't feel like such a visitor. At the souk there were acrobats and dancers and even magicians, performing right out in the open on platforms and bright carpets, and if you liked them you threw money into these little copper boxes at their feet which were marked in the Tifinagh alphabet so I couldn't read them. I would give anything to go back there someday. Have you ever been to the Iberian peninsula? I would like to go to Cordoba as well, but I don't think they're nearly as friendly to outsiders.

One day I'll go to Bohemia, too, and I'll see the squid. Mostly I go to museums by myself, or really anywhere, once Selwyn drops us off in a new city. Selwyn doesn't find the same things interesting as most people.

What's it like being a princess?

Yours truly,


January 23 2011, 18:14:05 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  January 23 2011, 18:16:13 UTC

Dear Kent,

Yes, you may call a princess "dear", but only if she allows it and you mean it.

...Very well, I made up that second bit. The first is true, though. So I will not behead you for insolence. (And you are right, people do not lose their heads very often anymore. Not in our empire, at any rate. But beheadings make very good stories. I read a history once that told of an English king a thousand years ago who lost his head at the hands of invaders, who then threw it into the forest. And when his followers went out looking for it, the head called to them until they found it! That's far better than all the accounts of poisoning my instructors have me read.)

You really are much younger than me! You don't sound it. And a summer birthday, too! Do you ever celebrate, or is your master not the sort to do that? Perhaps in June I will send you a gift, if you are in a place with a postbox.

Poetry is much better if someone reads it to you. Or if you read it aloud to yourself. Unless it is Shakespeare. You asked if I was very "into" Hamlet, and no, I am certainly not. You must understand that every member of the royal family has seen so much Shakespeare by the time they are fourteen that the mere mention of one of his tragedies is enough to make me want to fall asleep on the spot. I do like Marlowe, though, and some of his contemporaries (Have you ever met anyone who disliked Doctor Faustus?), though I must admit that I cannot talk very intelligently about them. I only began seeing them in my lessons last year.

Your master has done a very good job of teaching you langages, hasn't he? And we share four of them! French, Italian, Greek, and English. (I cannot imagine why you are learning Welsh.) Is French a natural language of yours? I have been told that your mother was an Iroquois woman, so she must have taught you when you were quite young. I wish I had learned French at that age. It is the most difficult for me by far.

(If it is not too forward...what happened to your mother? I only ask because you said you do not remember her very well, and I would like to give you my condolences if she died, even if it was many years ago. However, if this is inappropriate, please tell me so.)

I have not been to Granada in many years, but after reading your memory of it, I want to go again very much. I could have visited last summer, but my father thought the better of it. You see, there is a certain nobleman there who has expressed an interest in me, but he is not quite so noble for it to be worth it to the Crown to encourage this interest. But he does have lovely horses. I might be willing to suffer a day or two of misaimed compliments in order to spend an afternoon in his stables.

As for what it is like being a princess...well, I think that anecdote sets the tone very well. Sometimes it is very lovely, and sometimes it is supremely stupid, and most of the time it falls somewhere in between. But I will not say more until you answer my questions about your magic! I am interested, Kent.

Yours sincerely,
Dear Eleanore,

The king's head talked? I mean, after it was severed? (It probably did a lot more talking before the severing.) I've heard about things like that happening in the Edges but you always think it's just stories. I'd never expect something like that to happen in England.

Oh, my God, I forgot to tell you about my training in magic! I was going to! I even thought about how I was going to explain everything, but then I guess I got distracted. I'm sorry. Well, the way I learned magic is a takeoff on the Venetian system (my master, Selwyn Branch, had a guild education). And the most basic skill he taught me was draftsmanship. Learning how to be an illusionist is actually a lot like learning to be an artist! Both illusionists and artists rely on faithfully (and quickly, as you get better) reproducing images (or sounds, or whatever) that only exist in our heads. You study a lot of the same things, too. The emphasis is on understanding underlying structure, weight, light and shadow, form, the aesthetics of motion, and making sure that the perspective is dynamic and believable so that your work is correctly interpreted by your viewer. Painters do all that in two dimensions, with paint, and illusionists do it in three dimensions, with the force of our concentration, but you can make the analogy stretch really far.

Actually, the most common disguises for magicians traveling through parts of the world where we're not welcome is as architects or portraitists. I've had to do that two or three times. I don't think of myself as an artist, because my art isn't very inspired, but I can definitely sit down with a sketchbook and draw a picture of anything you like which is very accurate. Apart from languages, I probably spend more time practicing sketches than anything else.

But, you know, this is the Venetian school, and the Venetian school is very visual (sorry if you already know all of this, but I don't know how much you'd know about schools of magic around the world, since obviously Britain doesn't have any). So I'm better at visual effects than a student coming out of the Viennese Scalar system would be, but the Scalar system has a better grounding in sound and force. Selwyn studied in Vienna for a year so he can do all of that (he can do everything), but he says I'm not up to that yet. And then there's the Greek system which is very holistic and experimental, and it aims to use illusion to gain insight into other states of being? Selwyn gave me a book to read about it, but it doesn't make sense to me at all. I've asked him about it a couple times but even just hearing about the theory makes my eyes glaze over. Maybe someday I'll understand it, but I'd be surprised.

Did I answer your questions this time? I think I got distracted again, but at least I was distracted and still talking about magic. Just keep asking me until I manage to say whatever it is you want to hear, I'll get it eventually.

My birthday! I do get to celebrate it, yeah, although it's never a very big deal, since we're always on the road and I'm almost never around friends when my birthday comes along. But Selwyn gives me the day off from chores and studying, and if we're in a city he gives me money so I can go out and do something special, and he almost always has a present for me. So, it's nice! And sometimes I'm like, "Can we stay on in New York for an extra week, because I want to be in New York for my birthday," and unless it's really important that we be somewhere else, he's always fine with that. Last June we were in New York and I asked for my birthday money early so I could buy tickets to see the symphony. I love the symphony, don't you? It's the biggest reason I want to go to Vienna, so I can go to the symphony all the time and learn how to reproduce them with magic. Right now I try and try to make illusory symphonies, but I always leave something out. It's very frustrating.

Yes, my mother taught me French. She was Seneca. I had to learn it much better once Selwyn got to me, though. The French I learned was very lower-class and had an obvious accent that wasn't the kind of accent that would get me invited to many parties. The first year or so of my French lessons with Selwyn were closer to phonetics than language training.

I don't mind you asking about my mother, don't worry about it. I don't think she's dead. I wouldn't know, though. I haven't heard from her since I was four years old. She wasn't able to support me, so she tracked down my father and gave me to him. I remember her name and a bit about the flat where we lived, but I've never felt the urge to look her up. We lost touch pretty fast once I'd gone to live with my father (it was a whole day's travel for her to come and see me, so I can't blame her). I don't really remember anything else about her. My father told me once that I have her hair, so. I guess she had nice hair.

I hope it's all right for me to say that I'm surprised your family would think about a marriage to ANYONE in Granada. I guess there are a few Christian aristocrats there, but I figure they would all be French Catholics. Are you allowed to marry a Catholic?

This is pretty long, so I'll stop for now.

Yours truly,


6 years ago


6 years ago


6 years ago


6 years ago

Hello Pallas,

I haven't written a letter to anyone in years, so I'm pretty rusty. Last time I did I was in a very different situation, and can't seem to shake the feelings I had about writing then. Sorry, not an important issue.

I'm interested in getting to know you some more. You and I are very different people, but we both seem to be strong willed women, guess thats somewhere to start.

So, I hear you're quite the hell raiser. I'll admit to doing that some too, but I've calmed down a lot in recent years. The more I think on this the less I have to say.

Well, I've never been much for idle chatter, so I'll just introduce myself and leave the rest up to you.

My name is Gale, short for Abigale. I'm in my twenties and I have a steady job keeping the peace. I've been accused of breaking that peace some times, but thats a different letter. My favorite things include drinking, and shooting, and I'm damn good at both.

This letter is pretty horrible, so I'm just going to keep this short.

Nice to meet you, and hope to talk with you some more soon,

It has come to my attention that you are familiar with magic. The source of this information is irrelevant, but I am quite interested in knowing if you're any good at your craft. I have met many a so-called magician in my life, and a long life it has been. I've had many disappointments.

I'll get to the point, then. I am called Aldric Meitzler, though I have known many names as the ages progress. I am formerly of an order known as the Teutonic Knights. I say formerly because it has been over five-hundred years since I wore the order's cross and swung my axe for the cause. I've not known a single gray hair or sagging wrinkle in all my years - despite what some may say, immortality is not all it's made up to be, particularly when I'm bound to guard a cursed lake.

I can only hope this letter reaches you, as the lake very rarely appears within walking-distance of a courier willing to deliver this. I am also rarely with access to any useful source of information, thus this letter. What do you know of lake witches? At least that is what I assume she is - though I could also easily assume her to be some sort of water sprite. I sought out the lake for its power, and instead I was given immortality and trapped to never leave the shores and serve as its guardian.

In all honesty, I'd just rather hurry up and die. Immortality is a chore when I have to witness the sort of atrocities men can commit for the sake of enchanted waters.

You'd better have some answers,
Aldric Meitzler