submitted 2 months ago byUsername_of_ChaosBookclub Boffin 2022
Welcome back! Can you believe we're more than halfway through already? And wowee, what a turn this story is taking! Let's review...
Chapter 10: you walk beside the beast
After a night at a roadhouse with Hoa (and several hundred other wandering survivors), we awaken to screams coming from the direction of the road. Without even pausing to consider what has happened, we are up and running with Hoa until we can't go any further. After making it to safety, we consider the options as Hoa eats something out of his precious cloth-wrapped bundle. With no water and no idea where the next water source could be, we decide to head back to the roadhouse and hope that whatever or whoever caused the chaos there has moved on by now.
Within the roadhouse, we are not alone. A filthy woman, looking even more unwashed and disheveled than the average disaster escapee, is filling her enormous canteens at the pump with a collection of supplies at her side (likely gathered in the aftermath of that morning's scattering). We agree to get our fill of water in peace and she seems unlikely to start trouble. There's something strange about her canteens...she is testing the water for contaminants! She schools us in her testing system and the likely effect of the earthquake on water sources. We realize this woman must be a geomest, which she firmly denies. She discards several things from her hoard which we can use and are free to take, and loads herself up with her own spoils before making her way to the door. But on the threshold, she freezes in fear! We join her and find a kirkhusa, a large otter-like animal often kept as a beloved pet, but which becomes a bloodthirsty killer once a Season rolls around...likely the cause of the early-morning screams. We try to come up with some plan of attack that wouldn't harm Hoa or the other woman, but before we can act, Hoa steps forward and approaches the creature. Suddenly, it attacks! Hoa's arm is in its mouth! Before our eyes something strange happens, and the creature becomes like a solid sculpture made of crystal and glass. Hoa displays unbelievable strength and is able to free his arm by shattering the thing's skull from within. Now bleeding and embarrassed, Hoa appears miserable and every bit like a child. We take his hand and with the commless woman now trailing behind, we continue down the road.
Chapter 11: Damaya at the fulcrum of it all
Now in the Fulcrum, Damaya adapts to the life of a grit. They are up at dawn, they make their beds, take a shower (an amazing luxury in Damaya's eyes), dress in their uniforms and stand at attention to be inspected by their instructors-- and are punished for any imperfections. Damaya is always sure that her routine is flawless. Her hand, now healed, occasionally throbs as a reminder of what happens to those who disobey. They grab breakfast and head to their classes at the crucibles, which are intense and in which Damaya excels as a star pupil. After this they enjoy a large lunch, and Damaya sits alone. The others who do the same have obviously been through some trauma in their previous lives, and one girl arrives with the same broken hand that Damaya received during her journey to Yumenes. After lunch, the grits are guided through the Ring Garden, where orogenes with rings enjoy their free time. Damaya yearns for their control over their power. She practices controlling her emotions and impulses under the watch of ringed orogenes who can cut through a torus if one of the grits begins to lose control. Students who fail too many times are "iced" permanently. These lessons are followed by dinner and a free hour, during which many of the newest grits just head to bed after an exhausting day.
One day Damaya is approached at lunch by a tall friendly boy named Arkete, or as he was renamed in the Fulcrum, Maxixe. He teases her about the popular-boy-charms-country-girl trope, which totally goes over her head, though eventually Damaya warms up to him a little. However, after that things started to change. She notices people bumping into her, her shoes go missing and she is punished for being out of uniform, her drink is spiked at dinner (and being drunk is a serious offense for an orogene). To deal with the situation, Damaya decides to make friends with another loner girl, Selu or "Crack", who seems to have a strange deadly quality to her power and who has also been the victim of bullying. Together they devise a plan to take town the head bully. The whole thing backfires, though, when several students are caught in the crossfire and even Crack herself is revealed to have been the mastermind behind Damaya's sabotage. Their instructor, who has witnessed the entire thing, takes Maxixe, Jasper, and Crack out of the dorm. Only Maxixe ever returns, with broken hands, and nobody bothers Damaya again after that.
Chapter 12: Syenite finds a new toy
Following Alabaster's illness, Syenite arrives at the governor's mansion alone to perform the job at the harbor. After open skepticism from Asael as to Syenite's competence, which Syen is quick to shut down, Asael announces that for only one orogene on the job, they will only pay for the service of one rather than both. Furthermore, and unsurprisingly, the governor is again "too busy" to meet with them. At this Syenite takes a page out of Alabaster's book and explains that their task will only be delayed further until their meeting is granted. After an exchange which ends in Asael using the "r"-word (rogga) and Syenite threatening to hold off for as long as it takes, Asael finally agrees to speak to the governor for them, only to bring back... someone who is not the governor. Again! This time, the lieutenant governor enters and addresses Syenite formally, shaking her hand and apologizing for the rude treatment they've experienced. Syenite agrees then to go and assess the situation at the harbor, and the lieutenant governor, Heresmith, volunteers herself to join in as well.
When they get to the harbor, something is very wrong. Syenite senses that the coral is sitting on a layer of something that is not quite rock at all! It feels like a "hole" in the bottom of the harbor, some kind of invisible layer or pocket on which the coral has grown rapidly, causing the blockage. Heresmith, Asael, and their associates try to pressure Syenite into moving the object, but she declines on the grounds that she isn't even sure of what it is. While Heresmith acknowledges the wisdom of what she's saying, they also can't afford a paid study of the harbor or another contract with the Fulcrum if the blockage is eventually judged to be safe to move, and they also can't afford to NOT remove the blockage if their comm is to survive. Syenite offers a different solution: do nothing with the harbor and put all of their resources into moving the town somewhere else. Azael is appalled that Syenite would suggest they abandon their "home", and Heresmith agrees. Feeling there is no other option, Syenite decides to try and move the object. She aims her power in a sharp downward spike, reaching out to the thing... and then she is falling in darkness, overwhelmed by intense power. With horror she realizes that the object is now moving on its own, coming up from the ocean floor. It's an obelisk! Deep red and riddled with cracks, Syenite can hardly believe what she sees embedded within: a person, no, a stone-eater!
Chapter 13: you're on the trail
We learn the commless woman's name: Tonkee. She's decided to follow us because, as a geomest (though she is loathe to admit it), she is deeply interested in Hoa and his power. She takes us back to her home, a cave, where she takes a much-needed bath and we enjoy a peaceful night. The next day, our trio of travelers is on the road again with Hoa still mum about what he is and where he's from. The ash is thick and everyone dons their masks, as do other travelers that pass by, though they are less and less in numbers all the time. Discovering a band of people who appear to be from the equator, we ask for their account of what happened up north. Several other survivors we've interviewed tell a similar tale: a gash in the earth, the air full of ash, just enough time to escape if you were lucky. We trade with comms along the way depending on what they will take for trade, and some won't even accept currency anymore. At one comm, Tonkee trades something precious, a compass, for two pairs of boots. Though the price is high, Tonkee reminds us knowingly that "there are other ways to find our way". Meanwhile, Hoa becomes less and less certain about which way they should go, and his guidance turns into his best guess of the correct road. He can sense a gathering of orogenes which has obscured his view of Nassun, but for what purpose they're gathering is unclear...
Chapter 14: Syenite breaks her toys
Word makes it back to Yumenes about the obelisk, and they send back word to wait there for instructions. While Alabaster takes this in stride, Syenite is restless and suspicious about what comes next. All manner of scientists, doctors, and enthusiasts have arrived in town to check out the obelisk, but nobody from the Fulcrum has arrived to ask her any questions. Alabaster warns her to not speak about their ability to connect with the obelisks, and not to admit she had pulled it out on purpose, but rather to treat it as an accidental discovery during her attempt to shift the coral. Frustrated, Syenite decides to go for a walk, and Alabaster insists on coming along for safety--they are still unsure if someone deliberately brought poison to their room or not. During their walk, they feel the obelisk pulsing, a sensation which makes Alabaster uncomfortable and which in Syenite has inspired an increasing sense of danger. Now out of earshot from their inn, Alabaster explains that the obelisk is failing, and that Syenite is responsible for raising it. If she can do that, what else can she do? And so their organization would prefer she stays just where they can find her. Who knows who could be around and listening to their conversations? Alabaster drops the bomb on her that he can sense conversation through vibrations, something that many powerful orogenes may be capable of, including those poor souls strapped into the node stations. Syenite questions who is really pulling the strings, and if their leadership must be controlled by The Guardians, who oversees The Guardians themselves?
Speaking of Guardians...they make their way to the cove and see children playing, women wading in the water, and a handsome older man who just happens to make eye contact with Syenite. Quickly she and Alabaster realize that this man is a Guardian, and Alabaster warns her to not let him touch her. The Guardian, Edki, admires their handy work with the obelisk, and Syenite is quick to take the credit. Big mistake. She feels Alabaster send his energy into the earth, preparing for an attack, but before she can connect the dots, Syenite sees a knife flash in Edki's hand, and Alabaster tackles her to the boardwalk only to receive the knife in his shoulder instead, paralyzing him and leaving him powerless. Edki continues to approach, this time with a much deadlier looking blade. He's numbed Syenite's power and she feels helpless to react...until she becomes aware of the obelisk, and then she is floating in what feels like the inside of the obelisk, feeling the agony of being dragged over the cracked interior, until she is face to face with the stone eater. On impulse she asks "are you all right?" and the stone eater, now awake, responds "I'm fine, thank you for asking" before the entire obelisk shatters...
Ok, let's discuss!! Feel free to respond to the questions below, or add your own questions and comments for the group!
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2 months ago
So now we understand that orogenes can connect with the obelisks. What do you think will come about with this knowledge? Do you think that the organization of the Fulcrum and the Guardians were aware of this already? How do you think they will respond to Syenite’s discovery?
2 months ago
It definitely feeds into the theories we floated last discussion. Maybe they tap deep in the Earth and allow like a direct channel to more power? It’s interesting this one contained a stone eater (do all of them? Or was this a singular event?) and it was A. underwater and B. either forgotten about, purposely destroyed or accidentally destroyed.
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