Chapter 2b - Winter 1228 - Crafting a Song

Following on from the events of The Palace Under the Waves

Calliope is settled into Aetos' old room in the main house. She makes a few attempts to spend time composing in the ruined temple (in the mundane level, not inside the regio), but is quickly beaten inside by the cold. After a day or so, she comes to find Viola.

"I have the broad outline of the first part of the story, but there are a few decisions we need to make before I can proceed much further.

The first one, is what language do I create the song in? I can't speak...whatever the locals around here speak (Calliope has been briefly exposed to this on passing through the village on the way to the covenant), so that leaves Latin or Greek. Greek will have the advantage of being understood by most of the covenfolk both here and throughout the tribunal, as well as most of the magi. My understanding is that you can't speak it yourself, however? Latin won't be understood by most covenfolk, which limits our pool of people a lot, and will miss quite a lot of the local magi as well.

The other question, is where do we go with the second act? It needs to describe a series of actions which lead to the desired change in role of Halia, and they'll have to be chosen carefully. We'll need to actually be able to get it enacted, but at the same time it needs to be story worthy - so we can't make it too impossible, or too trivial. Whatever we do will also need to include both humans and the fae, so that the fae can feed on our vitality - but we need to think of a good reason for the humans to be the principal movers in the story."

Viola hadn't thought of that one. How the heck did I miss that?

I think we need to find a translator: someone fluent in both Kipchak and Greek; he doesn't really have to have the Music skill, since we can use Calliope's melody, and even have her sing the song, but Free Expression would help. I just double-checked, and there's no one at the covenant like that at the moment.

Now we've got to talk to people again....Bleh. Viola will send one or or two of the grogs to the local village (Leon is fluent in Kipchak) to find out who might speak Greek fluently. She'll give instructions to look for someone known to be a good storyteller or singer, or at least good with words.

Viola thinks for a moment. "In this case, the vitality comes from humans' telling the story, over and over. You're right that having humans participate would provide an even greater source of vitality, but most of this story will have to have happend 'in the past'....We could only have humans play a role in the very last episode. Of course, the story will refer to humans--even real humans, like the men who were turned to stone--but we can't change what those humans actually did in the past, only the story that describes the past. For that matter, our principal actor, Halia, was a human. By now, she's probably become fae (it's hard to tell, especially since we haven't actually seen her), but in the story, she'll be human.

"I've been thinking of what episodes we could include, and it's tough. But I think our starting point is fairly easy. First, the curse separates her from her children, just as Poseidon's storm blew Odysseus off course--she even petrifies two of them, making her still more despondent. She enters a labyrinth and becomes lost, wandering endlessly with little hope of seeing her children again. Next, she has to defeat a series of attackers hoping to make their fame by killing her. Of course, these episodes all end in the same way, with the attacker turned to stone...but you can embellish the personal details of each of the men who would have killed her, or at least enough of them to get the theme across."

By this point, ideas are tumbling out one after the other. "Of course, I realize that, up to now, I've been talking about the story as it already existed. Yes, that's true in one way, but in another way it's not: in the original, the real story was Halia's seduction by Neptune, and the ensuing curse; the attackers were simply an epilogue, the logical aftereffect of the main events. Now, we elevate them to be Halia's antagonists; the more clever ones, who use their reflections or other effective tactics, might require the assistance of Demeter to defeat, in the form of warnings, a timely distractions a useful gift, or what have you. We'll even subtly change the earlier part of the story as well, presenting her more sympathetically, as more of an innocent victim of seduction (these stories always sound like they were made up by men, don't they?).

"The really tough part is finding a way for Halia to overcome the curse, and not just her attackers. Should that be a series of episodes where she gradually comes closer to reaching her children, or should that part happen just at the end? Making the process gradual seems like it would make a better and more believable story, but it will be more difficult. Perhaps she could begin by saving another mother, or helping a mother rescue her children. It could even be an animal or magical creature, not necessarily a human. She might fleetingly communicate with her children, only to have them retreat in fear, yet leaving hope for more contact later.

"In the end, perhaps we could create an episode where humans intervene to reconcile her with her children. This will be dangerous to say the least, which means I'll need to do it myself--because we have to get her children near her, and talking to her, without either them or any humans getting turned to stone. However, hopefully we can get Demeter to intervene directly in that episode, just as Athena helped Odysseus to slay Penelope's suitors. The reconciliation betwen Halia and her children will, I hope, lift the curse. [OK, apparently my daughter has watched Frozen a few times too many over the past couple of weeks.] To make this work, though, we need to link the curse to Halia's "Odyssey", and that means telling the story in such a way that Poseidon intended the curse as a means to separate Halia from her children. That way, once a reconciliation has occurred, the curse will no longer have a purpose, and so it will disappear.

"The one remaining question is whether we need to enact that story before telling it, or whether telling it first might make enacting it easier. I think telling it first would probably work best."

A few moments later, something else occurs to Viola. "Ah, yes, there's another question as well: where does Halia end up? I'm guessing that my lab space in the basement of the temple was her living quarters, or perhaps she lived alongside the Handmaidens, in the room that's barred now. She might end up living there again, but that doesn't necessarily mean in the same room--she could be living in its copy on the upper level of the regio. Or perhaps, it might be even more powerful a story (and more convenient for me) if her new home were some environment that symbolized her renewed role as a mother--that is, something that suggests fertility or nurturing, like a landscape in bloom." She pauses another moment. "And there should definitely be bunnies."


EDIT: I edited this to change Aphrodite to Demeter--I think we mentioned both, but Demeter is more a propos for a story about motherhood. Then, there's this: ... d_Poseidon. Demeter in one story is a liason of Poseidon, and they mate as horses, which seems relevant given the nearby herd of magic horses. And they're both connected to waters, which is also relevant.

I don't know if this is likely to do any good, but Viola is going to make a Faerie Lore roll to come up with a wild-ass guess about how long this story is going to have to circulate in order to change the regio.

Int +4 + Faerie Lore 4 + stress die 3 = 11


Sending Leon to the village doesn't result in a skilled storyteller who speaks both Greek and Kipchak fluently - indeed, it doesn't result in anyone who has more than a few smatterings of greek (apparently Damianos has being spending a bit of time with some of the locals). Leon also complains loudly about people looking at him funny. Haven't they ever seen a transformed fish before?

Theodoric, when consulted, notes that he's not sure how the local Muslim population will respond to the overt paganism of Halia's story.

Calliope objects that you can't just translate a song and expect it to retain its beauty - it takes a skilled musician as well as fluency in the labguages. An understanding of the cultures involved helps a lot, for the song to retain its meaning.

To Viola's stream of ideas, she responds:

"It was largely the final episode I was thinking of having human involvement in - I think it would definitely help to have some "trigger" we can initiate to bring the story to its conclusion. Telling it first would definitely work best - otherwise there's no real reason for it to work out as we'd hope."

"We're not going for the "tricked by Neptune disguised as Poseidon" reason for the infidelity, then? One possible reason for the curse to separate her from her children could be the uncertainty over their parentage."

"You could possibly try extending your Parma over her children? Although that lacks drama, aside from being potentially very dangerous. Do you have any idea how strong she is? Maybe that's an area Demeter could help in somehow...the provision of some sort of charm?"

"You want a symbol of rampant fertility in your lab?"

[OOC: If you get rabbits, you will get the Infested flaw.]

OK, there's a Venetian (maybe Genoan, but let's say Venetian) trading settelement nearby, confusingly also called "Tana" (in other words, Latin/Italian for "Tanais"), and located at the current mouth of the Don. It ought to be possible to find someone there who's fluent in both languages. We need to send someone over there to find a good candidate. Someone who doesn't think he's a fish. This is a job for a companion...too bad the only ones still being played are magical animals. :stuck_out_tongue: So plan B is to find one of the covenfolk who's halfway presentable--maybe the mason/autocrat?

Arabian Nights, for example.]

"I understand that it's not really the same. But most magi read the Odyssey in Latin, and they still think its a good story. But yes, we need someone competent to help you. In the meantime, let's just focus on composing a good story."

"Yes, of course. I said 'seduction', but 'deception' would probably be a better word for it. Either way, the end result is the same. And yes, thats' a good point about the parentage of her children."

"I think extending my Parma is too risky--we really don't know how powerful Halia or her power is. A charm would be nice, but there are other ways of accomplishing the same goal, such as giving everyone mirrors...or perhaps just finding a way to obscure Halia's face. What would make for the most interesting story?"

[Yes! She had that Flaw in both her old lab and the original draft of this one. :stuck_out_tongue: And it didn't even occur to me to get it this way.]

"It would be most useful for a specialist in Creo, but having a lot of living things around can be a big help in performing Animal and Herbam magic. There are also a number of other benefits to a lab of being located in or near an example of nature."

[I think you missed my second post, about Viola's attempt to figure out how long it's going to take to change the regio.]


[OOC: Sorry, forgot to respond to this initially.]

Viola reckons she should leave it at least a season, maybe two after the story has become familiar to the population. Of course, it'll take some time for the story to spread as well, so the total timespan is likely to be longer.

Calliope objects that you can't just translate a song and expect it to retain its beauty - it takes a skilled musician as well as fluency in the labguages. An understanding of the cultures involved helps a lot, for the song to retain its meaning.

"I understand that it's not really the same. But most magi read the Odyssey in Latin, and they still think its a good story. But yes, we need someone competent to help you. In the meantime, let's just focus on composing a good story."

2c - I'd say you're both right. A story can be translated well by a speaker of both languages, but a song takes a good musician as well. I've read Illiad and Oddesy, as well a Beowulf in English and enjoyed them; but they're not songs and the phrasing and timing has to be just so. It is like watching a Wagner opera with the English surtitles; it is kind of a mess in English, but I like the songs and music anyway. I'd dread an English translation of the songs.

The mason/autocrat is rather busy holding down the job of both mason and autocrat. Possible candidates are Theodoric, or possibly Bogdan or Godzimir (but they only speak Kipchak and Latin). Someone who spoke Italien would be good, but unfortunately we don't have anyone.

"The dullness is a problem with the Parma - difficult to put into a story as well. A ward would have a similar problem. Didn't you say there was a problem with mirrors in the regio?"

Theodoric I think would be more than capable, since he's fluent in all three languages, and knows a little Rus to boot, and he's also not crazy, reckless, or stupid. We'll send Bogdan and Godzimir to accompany him--maybe we can even play it out. And someone needs to generate a useful companion. Maybe the grogs can find one in Tana.

Viola shakes her head. "No, I don't think so. I might have said it was risky to rely on nothing but mirrors, but I don't see a way around it...except to find a way to hide Halia's face, so that no one can see her. That might be hard, but if we rely on each of her children to be careful, I'm fairly certain at least one of them will be turned to stone."


Theodoric can go, yes, and putting him in charge of the other two emphasises his status. We can either play it out, or I'll roll a stress dice - will have to think about the ease factor (it won't be an automatic success, as it won't be a massive settlement and you've got to find someone with the appropriate abilities who's willing to up sticks and come to the covenant (alternatively, you could possibly arrange for the song to be delivered to him in-situ once it's finished).

[OOC: Remember any metal in the upper level of the regio became automatically tarnished.]

What's your preference? I think having a grog story would give an opportunity for some others to get involved, and have fun with something other than their magi.

Ah, yes. With ReIm, there's more than one way to skin that cat, but in any case Viola thinks obscuring Halia's visage is probably the wisest way to go.


[OOC: Okay - I can run that if people are interested. Give me a few days to work out the potential [strike]horrible doom[/strike] plot. When is Viola sending them to look for a candidate? Immediately, or is she going to wait until the song's done? It'll take about a season to craft the song, assuming you work on it solidly.]
Calliope lays out her key points of the "story so far":

  • `1Halia was the foremost priestess of Poseidon in the temple.
  • Poseidon would visit and lie with her. This gave rise to children.
  • Neptune was jealous of Poseidon, and desired to take what was his. He disguised himself as Poseidon, and deceived Halia into lying with him.
  • Poseidon discovered the two of them together. He cursed Medusa such that she transformed into a gorgon. This had the side effect of petrifying Neptune. Poseidon also cursed the temple such that no water should flow in it, and the handmaidens.
  • Halia's curse cut her off from her children, even petrifying two of them. Without their mother to bring them up properly, they became uncultured and ill-mannered, yet still desperately missed their mother.

Where does she go from there? Calliope remembers that Demeter's foremost cult centre, should it be relevant, was at Eleusis, where she and her daughter were reunited. She thinks there was another shrine at a place where Demeter called for her daughter when she was missing, but can't remember its location.

Might as well start cultivating someone as soon as possible, and get him or her excited about Calliope's story. We could even translate bit by bit, as parts of the story are completed.

That last bit is a nice touch.

I don't know about the location off the top of my head.

Viola isn't sure Halia actually has to go anywhere. Odysseus's journey had to be literal, because of the nature of his curse, but Halia's journey can be metaphorical: after all, she hasn't been separated from her children by distance, and it would be odd if she went away from them to get them back.


Sorry, that was meant to be "where does Calliope go from there", rather than Halia. What's the next step in the story? It needs a sequence of events.

I thought Viola had already laid out a rough sequence of events, starting with the attacks by "heroes" who end up getting petrified?


Good point. Add in the various attempts to slay her that bring us up to the present day. But the big question is, how does the story progress from the present day? How are you going to get her to interact with her children? What triggers Demeter's intervention? What, once the story has been written and spread, will Viola then need to do to continue the story?

As far as enacting the story, I think doing it more than once would be too dangerous. The other problem with enacting it multiple times is that you'd then get into a cycle where Halia is still a dangerous monster a large part of the time--which is not at all what we want. What we need to do, therefore, is to push Halia into a new and more benign role, and base her future stories on that role.

So, basically, Calliope needs not only to compose an Odyssey for Halia, but then tell a story or two about her role as a maternal symbol. That might eventually involve some local women seeking her out, or at least making offerings to her, and in fact their doing so would help to perpetuate that role--but Viola doesn't plan on pushing anyone to do it.

As far bringing Demeter in, I think it's reasonable that Halia's plight attracts her from the very beginning, and so she's seen intervening in small ways in many of the stories, just as Athena did for Odysseus. That should solidify her role in the epic, which, hopefully, will attract her in person when the time comes.


Calliope agrees that you don't need or want the whole story to become cyclic, or to re-enact it multiple times - although an end point which allows for ongoing human interaction would be good. However, you will still need to enact the second half of the story once - so what will it consist of?

[OOC: I'm not sure if I'm being as clear as I'm meaning to be here. You have the first half of the story, which gets you up to Halia's current position. You then need to come up with a fairly detailed series of events, which need to be of sufficient magnitude and scope to constitute a decent story, and which Viola could plausibly effect or trigger coming about, which will lead to the desired end point of Halia being reunited with her children breaking the curse. After the story has been spread, you will then need to actually play through said series of events, which should culminate in the desired reunion.]

I thought that's what we'd already done, except for the final episode. Do we need excruciating detail about each scene, or just to get the general idea?

As far as the story so far, Viola's idea was that parts of the extended story would be "in the past". More specifically, Halia's Odyssey begins with fighting off the "heroes" who come to slay her--that, obviously, is part of the original story, but now it's reframed as the beginning of her journey. The next part, which will be new, is one or more episodes in which she saves another mother, and one or more episodes where she comes closer to her children in some way, only to fall short of reaching them. Then, finally, there's the episode in which she's reconciled with her children.

As far as enacting the stories, we could start the enactments with the new parts--helping out mothers, and coming closer to her own children. However, conducting multiple scenes involving a creature who literally kills on sight is not a good idea--especially since we'd probably need actual mothers (or potential mothers). Viola thinks we just need to leave these parts as story, and not try to enact them, though Calliope could recast some of the petrified men in the regio as villains that Halia saved her fellow mothers from. In any event, merely spreading the stories will provide some amount of vitality. However, Viola will leave the details of all of those stories to Calliope's creative talents (because, for game purposes, we don't need to rewrite the entire Odyssey!).

That means that it's the final story that must be enacted, and so that's the one where we need some real detail. My thought is that Halia wants to see her children, and Viola persuades the children to come and see her. By acting as the intermediary, Viola provides vitality. As I mentioned before, the safest way to do this is probably to keep Halia's face hidden, perhaps behind a veil or a partition. In the end, though, some dramatic act of motherly love and reconciliation has to occur to break the curse--most likely a physical embrace. The safest way to do this is to arrange for the act to occur in a way that's more or less safe for the children, rather than crossing our fingers and hoping that initiating the act will break the curse instantly, and so spare the children. Oh, and we need to involve Demeter in some way.

Try this, then: Viola convinces Halia to see her children, and convinces the creek fae to visit the regio. She leaves the creek fae at the entrance while she fetches Halia. She places a veil on Halia, and leads her to her children. When Halia reaches them, Demeter appears, and reassures everyone that all will be well, and that everything is as intended. Even with the veil, there's drama: Halia must risk rejection in order to embrace her children. Once Halia has done so, Demeter helps lift the curse.

Obviously, the various actors might resist Viola's persuasion, but spreading the story before actually enacting it will help to encourage them to play their roles as planned.

I'm not sure that Viola can rely on her Parma Magica to protect her here--it gives her MR of 25, plus 5 for Te or Co, for a total of 30, and that might not be enough. She'll be very careful, and view Halia only through a "mirror"--some object with a sponted ReIm reflection effect. It would also be best to find a way to make sure the veil can't be removed: mabye it's an enchanted item, maybe there's just a spell on it, or maybe Viola could even use Animae magic to make it animate, and then use ReHe or the like to get it to resist efforts to remove it (I'm assuming an Herbam faerie wouldn't be any more vulnerable to the petrification effect than any other clothes Halia is wearing).

Of course, there are other stories that take place after this, placing Halia in the role of assisting mothers, but, while we should spread those immediately, we obviously don't want women trying to enter the regio, while Halia is still in her present state, and we don't want Halia leaving the regio--apparently, something already prevents her from leaving her regio level, which is convenient. Actually, even afterwards, I don't think Viola wants random women knocking on the regio door. Perhaps we can find some other means for women to seek assistance, though this might require Halia to leave the regio from time to time. Halia could also, of course, act as the covenant's patron at that point, since apparently we need one in this tribunal.

At least, that's Viola's "rough draft"--Calliope can certainly make some suggestions.


The creek fae had instructed Viola not to "look into her eyes. Any of them", so it's reasonable to assume that something without eyes won't be vulnerable to her power. So a herbam animae should be okay, as long as it's blind. Guessing what will happen if it does have eyes is a bit harder - Halia's clothes are part of her own glamour, and the statues had stone clothes, so there's a good chance it might get petrified.

Calliope's worried that the story as proposed may well not be enough to attract Demeter's attention. Maybe one of the children should go on a quest first to plead with her? Of course, such a quest might well be opposed by Poseidon...

She suggests that after her transformation, there might be a set day each year when mothers come to petition Halia for aid - that should keep the nuisance to a managable level.