Attraction and Distraction
‘I can kill you…for an hour, or a day, but you would return, pulled like iron to a Loden stone.’
‘How does it work…where does the pulling come from?’ asked Denna
‘It’s a kind of galvanic force,’ I said, then hesitated. ‘Which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve got no idea at all.’
So, Loden stone. Aka Drawstone. Aka Magnet. I’m with Kvothe on this one, I don’t understand why it acts like it does, I just accept that this is one of the fundamental laws of the universe and nothing will ever change that. But I can point out a few small clues that we can adapt into an answer of sorts using only the books text as a reference…I hope, although Iron foil is not really my thing. This one might get a bit lost in places, probably because it attempts to link a lot of pieces together at the same time and doesn’t really know it’s proper place in the world. In many ways it is like Auri’s brass gear, Fulcrum. It’s a big piece made of smaller pieces that also leans heavily on artifice and numbers as it’s hidden secret unwinds it’s way through our tale, over and under, round and around like a piece of silk woven through a spoked wheel.
As far as I can tell, Loden and Iron are much like twins. They are two separate and individual things in the world, yet at the same time they are also really two halves of the same thing. Depending upon proximity, each twinpart will attract the other as their fundamental nature is to be linked together as one, and yet they are two. We have a description of Loden stone as looking like a piece of gnarled slag iron, the glassy drossy residue of concentrated impurity that is left over when raw iron ore is tempered in heat in an iron foundary, which is the major business concern of the Trebon region. Most importantly we are told that loden is black whereas raw iron ore is predominately red in colour we also hear that the semi-refined cealdish drab is described as being a mid-colour brown.
This is the spectrum we have been given to work with. The Earth Colours.
Vaevin & Stangle
Early in the first book Kote needed a piece of iron to use on the spider-demon. Kote knew what it was immediately and using his worldly knowledge he names it as a scrael. He examined the dead demon spiderthing and discovered that it was made entirely of stone, but not like normal stone. It’s whole form was compared to that of a mushroom, all one basic building block but one which had become animated with something like a ‘desire’… a compulsion to act towards a purpose of it’s own, or rather that of it’s creator. One might suggest that it was following a primal urge to seek out sustenance in the form of horseflesh or man blood, everything must eat I suppose, except stones of course. Both Kote and Bast know a lot about these creatures, including how to ensure that one is properly dead. The part of the semi-dead scrael which Kote kept he later used as a lure to attract the other living scrael to his stinking summoning fire (there is no such thing as only one scrael, they hunt in packs). Keeping a bit as a souvenir is not a good idea, Bast knows this, but Kote deliberately did so in order to give him a proper link back towards the rest of it’s pack, all spiderstone is one spiderstone after all. This summoning power which spiderstone seems to exhibit also implies that if you don’t destroy the whole corpus properly then it’s fellow scraels would be able come along later looking for it more easily, possibly by following the trail of it’s dead demon scent . Burning hair and rotting flowers is our malodorous description for the smell of this stuff and to the Felling night crew this was the smell of a demons corpse. But we really need is a nice simple word we can pin on this stuff to act as a badge for what it really is without getting all wordy and poetic about what it might best be, and so I shall borrow the term Stangle from the world of Lyonesse as a name to be used here to indicate this ‘stuff of dead fairies’.
Stangle: The stuff of dead fairies, with implications of horror, calamity and putrefication; a term to excite fear and disquiet among halflings, who prefer to think of themselves as immortal, though this is not altogether the case.
In Pat’s world, Ademic features a good word to use as for the opposite of Stangle, a word for the stuff of life fairies, which is as close as we’re likely going to find for our purposes and that word is Vaevin. Penthe tries to explain it’s meaning to Kvothe after they have sex but with some limited success. She thinks of it as ‘anger’, and, to me, and PiL, anger is an energy… or fuel perhaps.
‘It is a desire . It is a making. It is a wanting of life… It is the feeling that makes them want to move and grow and do and make. All things have anger, (although) a stone does not have much compared to a budding tree’
These are the two ends of the same scales that we shall be using in our workings, a second way of describing things to go with our earth colours of red, brown and black. These terms will come in useful to more easily help to describe some of the indescribable understanding necessarily needed when dealing with the shaping of such things. Elodin would understand.
How to build a Scrael
Being entirely made of stone would imply to me that this not a natural creature but rather that of a creation, shaped for purpose by someone speaking the longname of stone bound together with the longname of their own vaevin to thereby encourage a greater percentage of Vaevin into the basic stone shape than is normally present. You first choose a nice piece of stone and speak it’s name to bind it to your desire. Once you are at this point, a namer could ask the stone to become a ring to fit their finger, or to become any other shape they so desired. Spider shape for instance. Breathing the name of your own Vaevin into the stone would be akin to giving it a link to your own life, and since it is your own powerful vaevin it will give you a personal link to it, a bit like the feel of Chael’s hand was copied into the sword itself when he shaped it in fire to make a perfect bond with him. Forcing your mastery upon the simple stone can then be used as a means of control to force it to move, and grow and do and to make which would make it like a slave to your alar, bound by it and thus compelled to dance to your own masterly music, a lot like the pied piper is the one who is calling the tune, and all the children came running to follow him, or like a dog on a lead or a puppet on a string, or maybe even like ball and cup! This newly animated life form is therefore an act of shaping between the inanimate and the animate, and such shaping as this was once the province of an ancient and historically faen power in the world which Felurian names as the shapers.
The Shapers were those ancient name knowers who’s powers created the entire faen realm, every single part of it, right down to the butterflies, through asserting the power of their individual vaevin upon nature. They sewed the ‘whole cloth’ of the world into something that it never was before, and in doing so giving it a sense of heightened awareness of it’s new place in the world that shouldn’t really be there, a lot like Felurian sewed the shaed to be an extension of Kvothe’s will. He could shape it’s length and cut and make it move to his desire, she created a link of mastery, or rather posession, between Kvothe and this shadowy fabric of the universe. This new turning cape is a piece of old magic akin to that of the shapers who created many similar things from many different building blocks and who turned such links as they could forge to fulfill their own whimsical desires.
‘and at first it was not all bad, there were wonders…once I ate fruit from a tree in Murilla…’
‘the fruit was but the first of it, the early toddlings of a child. they grew bolder, braver, wild. the old knowers said “Stop!”but the shapers refused. they quarrelled and fought and forbade the shapers. they argued against mastery of this sought. ‘but oh’ she sighed, ‘the things they made.’
In this memory, one of the things they made was a silver tree which created a link or bond between all those who tasted it’s fruit, later, braver wilder experiments led to other organic creations, some of which were quite possibly spidershaped . The ‘older’ name-knowers could speak these long names and in doing so dance with the usually inert stone , but they knew the fox and the hare and they knew the space between the two. (this is of the Lethani!) They knew enough to work alongside nature but not to assume mastery over it, they knew enough to stop at that point and they said as much to the ‘new’ shapers. But of course, once opened, this tin of worms could not be easily closed and the inevitable happened. The advice was not heeded and Tin-foil worms became a thing.
The ‘new’ ‘progressive’ name knowers evidently decided that true power knows no limits and weakness is to be exploited by the strong. So they expanded further and further and gave more and more of themselves to their creation creatures and in doing so they permanently infused base names, such as stone, with their own personal Vaevin and thus they commanded the very fabric of the universe to dance to their desire in a more permanent shape. This was not like creating artificial intelligence, this was more like cloning extensions of themselves. This power of unbound creation, this level of ‘playing god’ was the breaking point that divided the old and new name-knowers into factions and this split led to ‘the war’ between them. And once that step was taken, the shapers went further and began creating real monsters, stone scraels and black iron draccus and such, Gremen and Daruna too, things to fight wars with, things that were not meant to be, blurring the longnames of things together into an army of monsters that marched to the beat to their drum.
Given that Bast is at least as knowledgable about the exact nature of scrael as his Reshi is and that they are only now begun arriving in mortal lands shows that he must have some prior experience of them from a time before, time spent in his own realm. The finger of blame for where the Waystone scrael actually come from clearly points to them as being an invasion force of faen extraction.
A Tick in the Box
Oh, i’m on good form tonight! Examining the scrael itself has just revealed a new discovery, hot off the press.Fresh Foil for forging. Our first mention of the Scrael tells us it is a spider, only as large as a wagon wheel and as black as slate (nice colour). It has eight legs, as all arachnids do, but then it is pointed out that…
‘It’s not a spider, it’s got no eyes… It’s got no mouth either. How does it eat? What does it eat ?‘
And this got me thinking a bit… All spiders have eight legs, but not everything with eight legs is a spider, just an arachnid. This isn’t a spider, it’s actually a bloodsucking tick! Ticks are also arachnids, but unlike spiders they have no eyes, they hunt by scent apparently, just like the scrael do. Ticks either have a mouth somewhere underneath their bodies, hidden between all the legs, or they burrow their head into their chosen choice of flesh (horse is a popular dish in normal tick land) and then suck out all the blood like a demon sucking the juice out of a plum!
Ticks do exist in Pat’s world though not in Ademre it seems, ‘I hate Tick’ decides Tempi on encountering one. The bodies of normal ticks swell up like a bladder when feeding. They may not get as big as a wagon wheel, but ticks can naturally enlarge their bodies to some limited degree in order to feed giving it scope for growth that could be encouraged. An unnatural or denatured tick would not be bound to any such size limits if it was created from a large enough piece of stone to begin with. Furthermore, the inner parts of a scrael are not black, just grey, with no blood, no organs in fact it looks like a mushroom does on the inside. This description sounds to me like the ideal shape structure for a creature that feeds on blood as a way to absorb it’s fuel source like a sponge does and allowing it to swell in size as it feeds. This scrael jumped on poor nellie first, it jumped out of a tree and started to climb all over her, cutting her up with it’s feet and creating a lot of blood for it to absorb. During it’s feeding frenzy the heavy but basically soft horse fell on top of it and broke a few legs but it still had enough vaevin left in it to have a go at the smaller target of Carter. That the wagonner managed to defend himself at all speaks volumes although if he had known it was a tick then he would also realise that was a bit big to crush between his fingernails in the proscribed method. Instead he luckily chose a similar crushing action in desperation and finished the job nellie had begun by repeatedly stomping on it. I don’t know what he was wearing on his feet (although we do hear of booted feet on the other villagers. Cheers for that, Pat) but I doubt he wears soft slippers to do heavy wagon work. I would recommend a good pair of nobnail boots like all workmen wear which we know would be most solidly suited and heavy enough to stomp anything into flinders. Simmon agrees. He owns a nice pair of such boots himself.
Isn’t it great when all the little pieces fit together like this!