Not an Obituary: Vae [Vheshrame; 12 Trandary 4385]
I have any number of other obituaries to write. I have started on three of them in the last hour, but they are making me morbid and morose, and I don't want to be either of those today. I am going on vacation in a few weeks, as soon as everything can be arranged! For the first time in, um, I guess 124 years, since my winter vacation with Floosh's village.
Well, not entirely on vacation. I am taking my work with me. My main job, still, is making sure that Vae doesn't do very much wicked to Vheshrame. Our relationship has changed a good deal over the decades. When we contend now, it is no longer as an ant (me) against a tiger (Vae). It is more like a kitten (me) against a tiger (Vae). Actually, Vae has been quite inoffensive for nearly two decades, though that is surely over. She has been a boy full-time, while she and Oixe were trying to conceive. That has now worked; Oixe laid a fertilized, living egg. Vae got to get one quick glimpse of it through a scrying spell before Oixe drove him off. Oixe will not let Vae, or any other nendrai, anywhere near the egg or the child until the child is old enough to take care of itself. The nendrai incubation period is a century or so, so I am going to go through another generation of friends before Vae gets to see her sweetie again. Vae is back to female: back to a winged female serpent, at that, and utterly miserable. A miserable nendrai isn't quite as dangerous as a deliriously happy one, but it's pretty close. Taking her away from Vheshrame for a few years seems like the best idea for all concerned. It may even make Vae feel better, which is not something that Vheshrame much cares about, but I do.
And I suppose I should write about Vae, for anyone coming to this journal for the first time.
The summary: Vae is one of the most awful and dangerously insane monsters on the World Tree, especially to her friends. She is an fearsomely powerful mage. When anyone asks her to help them, she loses all judgment and does something that might be helpful, generally an an overpowered and devastating way. She is quite sad. She is one of my best friends anymore, though I'm pretty sure that's illegal.
Vae (short for Vaisessasilmin) is a nendrai, one of three known instances of Nendrai lacrymosa. (I got to name her species myself though I consulted with her about it, since I live in Ketheria and people at the heart of civilization heard about my name first. Nobody else had thought to do it when we met her, everyone was too scared.) Nendrai are one of the half-dozen most terrible beasts on the World Tree. They are, in their natural form, bulky bipedal lizardly people with coarse features, some nine feet tall, with very long and agile tails. (Some of them, like Oixe, aren't quite like that, but they're all lizardly and all have those tails.) They have a few minor advantages, like tremendous vitality. If you stab Vae through the heart with a huge enchanted burning copper sword hard enough to kill three mighty Gormoror, she'll grin and speak nicely of your swordsmanship and not even consider dying like any polite prime would.
The scary part of the nendrai is always the tail. They can, at a tail-touch, cast exceedingly subtle and exceedingly powerful spells. There only a few restrictions:
- Vae's spells have complexity 80 and power 160, or, if Locador is involved, complexity 100 and power 200. For comparison, a first-rate professional sorcerer, like a master smith, might, at the apex of her career, have one or two complexity-30 spells, which she casts at power 35 or so. A spell of complexity 40 is several times as good as one of complexity 30, so Vae's 80s are ridiculous and her 100s are beyond ridiculous. There are plenty of primes ranked as great wizards (and deserving it) who can't cast a single complexity-100 spell, or even an 80. Vae can cast nearly all of them that she can imagine, and she's got a good imagination for such things.
- Vae's spells must involve Mutoc, the Verb of transformation. She has to phrase them as changes, somehow. This is barely a restriction; she can cast a scrying spell, say, by making a leaf change its appearance to match the scene she is scrying on.
- Vae's spells must not involve Healoc, the Verb of healing. This doesn't actually stop her from healing herself. She is quite happy to transform a wounded body into an unwounded one with Mutoc. Well, not quite happy, since doing it with Mutoc hurts intensely, and doing it with Healoc is easier (for those who have Healoc) and feels good. A few useful forms of healing are beyond her, like raising the dead.
- Vae must touch the target of her spell with her tail. This, too, is barely a limitation, given her powers of Locador -- the magic of space and position.
- (Unlike my spells and those of most people, Vae's spells don't cost her anything to cast.)
- (Unlike when I try to improvise spells, Vae improvises spells without risking any failure of the spell proper. She can still do the wrong thing -- indeed, she usually does -- but she always does what she intends to do.)
This makes Vae a power to be reckoned with. She's probably not as dangerous as an average city-state in Ketheria -- though we have never exactly tested that, and we hope we never have to -- but she is not far off.
Much to her sorrow, Vae is not exactly in control of her own mind. She was designed by the goddess Gnarn, who rules the art of Mutoc and who is vastly cruel, to be an endless well of troubles for primes. Vae's primary blind spot is being helpful. If anyone is so foolish as to suggest that they need assistance to her, Vae will do something that -- in some interpretation -- might be considered helpful. She doesn't realize she's doing it until she's done it, and it's generally done in a way that's hard to undo. One time, for example, I complained about the rain. She surrounded me with a spell of complete protection from liquids, so that they always ran downhill in a great hurry, and, for Mutoc, "downhill" was always "away from me". That could have killed me of thirst, if my roommates hadn't found three ways around it, and it certainly wasted a bottle of expensive brandy.
After much doom, I made Vae a pair of magic earmuffs. When she wears them, they let her hear normally, except that they muffle things that they think she might interpret as requests for assistance. She can simply ignore that part of the conversation, or teleport off to a safe space and have the earmuffs report what was said, or turn them off altogether. They're not perfect, and they do make conversing with Vae difficult at times, but they cut down greatly on her accidental helping people to their sorrow. She usually wears them when she's with people.
Another lack of self-control is that Vae likes to get things from primes. And the word 'likes' is rather too weak. She got more physical pleasure from me passing her the salt at dinner than she did from fathering her unborn child, and that act was as pleasant for her as it is for most people. Once, some miscreant offered her a bowl of pea soup if she would build him a vast and well-defended floating mansion. It took her a hundred spells -- a hundred of her insanely-powerful spells -- but she did it. For soup. She hates this fact about herself, but she can do nothing about it. Unlike the helpful side, I don't have any answer for her on it. Indeed, it is official Vheshrame policy to exploit this flaw to the fullest.
My official, if officially unpaid, job in Vheshrame is "Ambassador to Vae". I have kept peace between us and her since she claimed our territory as her own territory 125 years ago. Technically, this has entailed visiting her with gifts every three days, and both of us pretending that it's simply an act of tribute between military allies. At various times, privately, I have thought that it was on the edge of rape. Maybe of her, since she doesn't at all like craving it or enjoying it. Maybe of me, since Duke Conturge forced me to do it for the first decade or so and I'm the one pleasuring her.
Also I am one of Vae's few friends and confidantes. Most people are scared of her. With plenty of justification, since she once turned all the Cani outside the city walls for miles around to wheels of cheese in response to a friend's child complaining that 'the Cani are bugging me!'. We managed to turn them back with a few hours' work... but we are lucky that she chose cheese, rather than ice cream, or it would have been a massacre.
Vae hates her arms and legs. When she is sad or in need of a kind of comfort that is largely unavailable, which is often, she turns into a winged snake. I understand this better than most people. Not that I have any such problem myself -- I am quite happy with my body -- but my long-gone long-time lover Mynthë, who was Herethroy, really wanted to be a mammal, and hated her insectile body. (At least Mynthë had the sense to ask me to deal with the problem, not Vae.)
Vae's mate is a female nendrai named Oixe. Oixe is a large six-legged three-headed nendrai with brazinion scales. She's not quite the sorceress Vae is -- she rarely gets better than complexity 50, which is still insanely complex. Her spells are more powerful than Vae's though. And she's far, far better in a fight. On their first date, they had a huge fight to determine which one would be the boy. Vae lost. Vae was thus male (via an easy Mutoc spell) whenever they met, and, when they were trying to concieve, male full-time for many years. I think that, once their child is grown up and Oixe can endure the company of other nendrai again, they get to have another fight to determine who's the boy next time 'round. In any case, Oixe lives a very long way off. Even Vae, whose Locador spells are mighty indeed, needed to teleport several times to get there.
(She's not wholly deprived of all contact with Oixe. They write each other love-notes several times a day and send them skipping across the World Tree with devastating Locador spells. They are thoroughly in love, after all. Still, Gnarn, in her infinite cruelty, has managed to come up with a way to reproduce that appears to hurt more than the Zi Ri way.)
When Vae cries, which is often, her tears are jagged blades of glass that force themselves out of her eyes. She then has to heal herself in order to be able to see again. With Mutoc, which hurts intensely. I have offered to make her an eye-healing talisman, so that it won't hurt, but she always refuses it. She doesn't like crying, and prefers to punish herself for it. We have had this conversation about once a week for a century now. I think there is a very practical aspect to it though; I think it adds tiny increments to her vitality.
In any case, I haven't seen Vae with arms and legs since Oixe laid their egg. Vae writes love-notes to Oixe with a pen in her snake's mouth. Vae is miserable, and a miserable nendrai is dangerous beyond words. Getting Vae away from Vheshrame seems like my civic duty, and giving Vae something to think about and enjoy seems like my duty as a friend. So, she'll be on vacation with us.