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Muse Fusion

So, something happened in Torn World's past that effectively ripped the planet apart, isolating sections of the world from each other. The people in each shard were left sundered from help, to try to survive and to explain what had happened. One such shard was Mojeveterk, which can be translated "All That's Left". In Mojeveterk, a mythology arose that women must be the stewards of the land, and that no land could be held without a woman living on it.

In response to a question about what it's like when two shards merge together again, I bring you this story, though with the warning that the canon board has not yet approved this depiction of the event in question.  The details may change a bit before this story is officially published as a part of Torn World.

Rocking at the Edge of the World

By Deirdre M. Murphy

Rrilm sat in the rocking chair on her back porch, looking at the edge of Mojeveterk. The house had not been built at the end of the living land, of course. There was a wide swathe of grassland between the porch and the broken earth of the dead area, whose ugly brown was broken only by an occasional border chicory plant. The nearer chicory flowers were pale blue or lavender, but only a few feet into the border they turned darker. After a distance that probably measured the length of her daughter’s big house in town, the flowers were black, and after that, nothing lived at all.

Often the border was misted over; clouds hitting the border quickly dispersed into fog. Sometimes she could see mountains, serene and purple in the distance. There was no one here to debate whether the mountains were just an optical illusion, like the rainbows that sometimes decorated the distance, or whether they meant that somewhere else, other parts of the land still lived. The debates were as old as Mojeveterk itself, having arisen even before Shliiritiri started to preach. Rrilm liked to imagine other people out there, living on the mountains, but she didn’t believe it any more than she believed in the colorful peacocks and dragons the Asaatarla trader clans used as totems.

In her youth, before she married, Rrilm had traveled all the way around Mojeveterk. With six elder sisters, she had toyed with the idea of joining one of the Asaatarla clans, though the wandering life never appealed to her. She had been relieved when she found her husband on the fringes of the far edge. The land wasn’t as bountiful as her sisters’ plots, but once she was accepted as her mother-in-law’s heir, it was effectively all hers. Those were good years, the years when she lived on her own land, raising children and grandchildren, and hosting parties for her mother-in-law.

In all that time, she had never walked into an edge, not even far enough to pick a single chicory flower. With the start of her childbearing, she had thought she was done with the edges for good. But now she was old and frail, too weak to farm or care for babies, and she had never had patience for politics, not even in her youth.

But she could still live on her family’s land, even though it was the least valuable plot hereabouts, tucked into one of the farthest corners of the final fragment of the world. And so long as a woman of the family lived there, it remained theirs, and supported their position in society. She smiled proudly, thinking of her eldest daughter, who’d inherited her own knack for predicting the weather and her mother-in-law’s knack for politics, an excellent combination when a woman’s political prospects were measured, in part, by the abundance of her produce.

Once Rrilm would have thought living here dull. Now, she found it peaceful. One or another of her grandchildren brought food every two or three days, a warm meal, bread, and fresh fruits and vegetables to last her until the next visit. And in-between, she did a bit of needlework, watched the edge of the world, and napped.

She had been napping when one of the little shudders so common at the edges of the last fragment of the world woke her. She smiled as the earth rocked her. The dishes were all safely tucked inside their latched cabinets, and if her clothing fell off its hooks and hangers, well, it would do her old back some good to stretch down and pick them up.

Then the cat complained at her from the yard, and the shudder grew worse. She sighed and stood up. The house was built to sway, but when the earth shook hard, sometimes a house fell in on itself. She grabbed her cane and stiffly walked out onto the grass. There was a chair out there too, though it wasn’t as comfortable, and she might get rained on if she fell asleep in it. Still, she smiled—a bigger shudder always meant someone coming to check on her. There would be a hot meal tonight, and there had been a hot meal this morning. Two hot meals in one day were a rare luxury for an old woman.

As she moved out into the yard, the cat circling her, still talking in the mysterious language of unhappy cats, the smile vanished. The wind was wrong.

It was blowing straight in off the southern border.

The wind on the border was never quite like it was inland, and here in the southwest corner of Mojeveterk, the wind was always muddled and confused, blowing first one direction and then another. But now it was blowing straight into her face, so the wisps of hair that always escaped her bun were streaming behind her. And it smelled—different. Green, earthy and dry.

The earth heaved; she fell to her hands and knees and crawled forward to sit on the ground next to the sturdy wood chair she’d planned to sit in. She didn’t want to be thrown to the ground again, but she’d need the chair’s help to get to her feet, and she would doubtless stiffen up before the earth settled down.

The house was creaking behind her; she thought of her comfortable bed and rocking chair, the china she’d commissioned, the paintings of her children—all she could do was hope the carpenters had built enough flexibility into the structure. Resolutely, Rrilm turned, setting her back to the swaying building. She resolved to watch the mountains until the earth settled down, letting their serene, unchanging presence calm her nerves.

But when she lifted her eyes from the mud on her hands and knees, one of the mountains was belching puffs of smoke. Then a spray of orange and gold rose into the air, falling to spill down the mountain, making a strange new river which glowed in the distance.

There was no land-priestess here to ask what this meant. All Rrilm could do was watch as the sky slowly turned gray, and the sunset bloomed with more color than any sunset she’d ever watched. She sat there long after the earth stopped moving and the house behind her stopped creaking, watching the glow from the mountain to the southwest, which only seemed to glow brighter as the night grew dark.

Her daughter would come soon, or one of her grandsons, and tomorrow the land priestesses would follow. She glanced back at the house. The rocking chair was on its side, but the house itself looked whole. She would have to order plates of pastries and nut clusters, brew up her signature scented teas, and have a case of her mead brought out to the house.

The earth shook again, and a new plume of gold split the sky, and soon a second river was trailing down the distant mountain. Whatever this meant, the land priestesses would be discussing it at length, and they would remember her family’s hospitality. She couldn’t do much, in her old age—but she could make sure of that.


If you enjoyed the story, please let me know! Comments, tips, and even smilies are welcome.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
Ooh, what happens next?

This just engages my interest, and then it ends!
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
I'm curious--what about this caught your interest so well?

As to what happens next, well, I know how things work out for Riilm's people as a whole, a couple hundred years into the future from this story...that's not particularly helpful in writing a next chapter for Rrilm's story, though.

That could change, of course. You're welcome to ask more questions here--and of course, you're welcome to stop by the next Muse Fusion and inspire all of us.
Mar. 21st, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
Interesting to have an old woman finding value for her days in holding family property simply by living there. So many elderly suffer the lack of feeling useful.

I've always found cats' language to be mysterious, whether said cat was unhappy, happy, or stubbornly reticent about emotional status. ;~)

Will you be continuing on with additional chapters? (I hope so.)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:23 am (UTC)
I have some other Torn World characters for whom I'm committed to finishing their stories, but even so, if people keep asking, I will continue the story. That's part of the function of the Muse Fusions, to give our readers the chance to influence which stories get written.

This story was written in response to a question asked in this month's Muse Fusion, and also to help me develop the background I need to continue Lalya's story.
Mar. 27th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
Intriguing world. I like the character of Rrilm.
Mar. 27th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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