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Xilanada - Epilogue

10 Jul 2006, 18:15

Turns out, I didn't like the ending. Rewrote it a few times, still didn't like it. Today, I said "hell with it", rewrote it in an hour and I'm putting the results up now.

I want to offer a very sincere "thank you" to all those who have read this story from start to finish. Your feedback and thoughts have been greatly helpful to me as a writer. And for those who said they liked it...well, it's made the long process of writing it worthwhile. :)

This is the end of the Xilanada saga. Likely, I'll be posting less frequently now, while work commenses on the Pivot Child and Fulcrum Hammer books at full steam. When I get further along in them, I'll probably begin posting them in much the same manner I posted Xilanada. Expect to see at least a few familiar faces.

Except for Xilanada and Sen. They get what they deserve.
BrilliantRain: There are those who would note that sometimes, sometimes, you get the things you really need instead of the things you deserve.
Kailan: If people only ever got what they deserved, the world would be a more miserable place.

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10 Jul 2006, 18:16

In the months after the demon breech, many things changed in the School. Nexus itself was hardly affected, though people had seen the towering circle of darkness and some had heard the screams from inside. Fewer still saw and none remembered the Army of Heaven that had rose to save the city, for there were many Gods in the employ of Heaven and it was in everyone's best interest that no one knew what had almost happened.

Efforts were underway to right the Tower of the Council of Entities, a task that was expected to be done by the next Calibration. The riots of the spring were a dim memory but everywhere tension was higher than it had been, as the city was slowly coming to realize that their Age was changing. A woman named Harmonious Jade was banished from the city, though not many understood the significance or what had happened.

For the Six Poses of Lightning School of Magic, the future was uncertain. Most of the student body had been preserved, thanks to the swift efforts of its faculty. Some of the Hardened Killers had been taken prisoner, having lost spirit at the death of their Abyssal teacher. Still, many children had died, the Founder of the School was gone, and no Sidereal cover-up could entirely remove the scandal of what had occurred.

Many miles to the east, the body of Final Starry Night sat in study. Captive Smile, the woman who had taken his life, had been frightened for months that the White Dragon would come back and kill her. In that time, she'd come to realize that her whole life had been one lived in fear...and that she now had the money and the time to consider alternatives. The Captive Smile who had been a prostitute had a long way to go, but in time the new Final Starry Night might turn out to be a good man, capable of managing his estate well.

Some distance to the north, the ghost of Secret Glory in Abjection prostrated itself before the Lover Clad in the Raiment of Tears. His apology was clever, profound and sincere. The Lover took him to her bed that night and, as he survived until morning, he was clearly forgiven. His heart ached for the loss of his beloved Rainblown but he found himself often thinking of the White Dragon, Solitary Coil, and what became of her.

And in the rural outskirts of Xi'arna, a nation to the southeast of Nexus forged by the power of a Solar, Xilanada and Sen honeymooned in quiet solitude.

They had been here for several weeks up in a magnificent cottage that Final Starry Night had secreted away during the height of his power. The nearest settlement was fifty miles and no one from there traveled this far East. It was a quiet time, full of days spent in conversation and silence.

E'lial, Chosen of Battles, approached the cottage on foot from some miles away. He wore the Sword of Creation, the Daylight Deliverer, tucked into his coat but he came unarmored and he came smiling. And he did not seem especially surprised when he was stopped by a bird who became a woman.

Solitary Coil frowned at him and wondered what trickery he and his kind were up to now.

"Ah, Solitary Coil. Of course." E'lial paused, his mouth half open. "Actually, there is no 'of course' about it. I'm honestly surprised you're here. Of anyone, you would be the last I would expect to find near the newlyweds."

"You do not understand me." Solitary Coil smirked at him. "As your kind has never understood us. What business is it of yours where I am? What business do you have here?"

"Nothing much. Just a small offer." He smiled winningly. "I have a friend named Venerable Silk who would has some...contract, now and then, with other Solar. He'd like Xilanada to teach them Sorcery. In exchange, well, the School could certainly use another line of credit given what's happened. Unless they are moving on?"

"No," Coil said.

"Yes, I thought as much. She might fancy the offer then. Up to her, take it or leave it. Obviously you've been keeping an eye on things. How is everyone?"

"Everyone?" Coil asked.

"Oh, you know. Ava. How'd she turn out with the demon thing?"

"The Ravishment on her soul is abated," Solitary Coil said. "As much as it can be. Her hair, her eyes...those things may be concealed with Sorcery but they cannot be undone as yet. I believe she is spending the summer investigating what has fully happened to her. Ask her yourself."

"Figured that. How's Glee? Seya?"

"Busy repairing the School. Stop wasting my time, Sidereal."

"Of course, of course." E'lial stretched his shoulders and looked about. "How was the wedding?"

"You were there. Are you truly this dim?"

"And how are you, Coil? What comes now?" E'lial's crimson eyes met hers and she couldn't hold them. She lacked the surety of the future to stand up against his piercing gaze.

"I don't know," she said truthfully.

"Your whole future has been turned upside down. Your husband became your wife and then married another entirely. It's not really your fault but you two are too different to be a couple anymore. You respect the man she's marrying but don't especially like him."

"Seer of the present and future," Coil growled, wrinkling her nose at him. "What do you want from me?"

"To give you a taste of what's coming." E'lial leaned against a tree and rubbed his heel with his other boot. The bright yellow boots were unmarked with dirt, despite the dusty day. "You stay because you love her. You stay because you're still giving serious thought to Xilanada's offer, to join her and Sen so that you and she can be together. That would be bad. Sen's going to give her a son in the next two years and it will be ugly. You'll wind up pregnant too and it will be even more ugly. Don't do that."

"I have no reason to trust what you say." Solitary Coil nonetheless felt tendrils of fear and horror at having her innermost thoughts and feelings exposed before this man.

"No, you don't. But you'd be a fool to ignore it and you are not a fool, Solitary Coil." E'lial smiled again. "You're one of the smartest Lunar I know. That's why I'm offering you a choice."

"To do what?"

"To know your future in advance and do things differently. I won't rule out a future with you and the two of them. Sen's not going to live forever anyway and there are some possibilities where you and Xilanada will remarry. Why not make good use of the time you have? Why not use it to do some of the things you always wanted to?"

"I have no desire to 'see the world'," Solitary Coil said scornfully. "There is no man or woman who catches my eye. I have no desire to form my own barbarian tribe or live as my fellows do."

"Well, there's always more First Age ruins. I hear Rathess has been opened up recently." E'lial looked at her steadily. "Or you can begin chasing your dream. Your real dream, the one hidden away in your heart that Final Starry Night distracted you from."

"Freeing my people," Solitary Coil said, almost in a whisper.

"Why not? You know a great deal more than you did the last time you tried. And you have far better credentials than before. Think of it, Solitary Coil. Some of the Gods who might give you help didn't trust you last time because of the Dune People and their close ties with Erembour. But you're the Dune Woman who stood against That Which Calls to the Shadows. That's a reputation no other Dune Person has ever had. Use it."

"And they will be safe while I'm gone?" Solitary Coil asked. She felt anguish, both at the thought of leaving her wife unprotected and that she needed the woman so much still. Parts of her didn't trust this red-eyed Star Child. But he had fought beside them. Blood told much.

"As safe as they can be in this world. There are no easy times for any of you ahead. But, for at least a little while, Xilanada and Sen will be at peace. And happy."

"Good," Solitary Coil said. She looked behind her, up at the cottage at the top of the hill. Her wife was married to another. They would have a child soon. She had no place here, hadn't ever really had a place here. "Go on and give your proposal to them. I won't be here when you get back."

"But maybe you'd like to."

Solitary Coil raised both eyebrows at the remark. She sized up the Sidereal who was giving her a very warming grin. "You wish to travel with me?"

"I haven't been to the South in a long time," E'lial said. "Certainly not in the company of a becoming woman. Who knows? You might find the distraction on the road will take your mind off your troubles."

"I'll think about it."

E'lial strode up the hill with a jaunty stride that made Coil snicker. It was rare to find a man with the self-confidence to look the fool by choice. Rarer still to find one so capable in battle, as he had proved himself to be against the demons.

Solitary Coil watched the Sidereal go and sighed. It was time to go. Her people needed her, had needed her for years. Thanks to her time with Final Starry Night, she knew a great deal more about Sorcery than she had before. Maybe this time she could cure them.

Maybe she'd find a salve for her own heart in the doing.

She almost turned back into a bird to fly the trip when she remembered E'lial. So the silly Sidereal wanted to go with? Well, maybe he would be good company, come to think of it. She could pick Star knowledge from his brain and possibly have someone to warm her bed in the meantime. Did she really want company, though?

Solitary Coil took the time to think about it. Much to her surprise, she was still there when E'lial got back. And much to E'lial's professed surprise later, traveling with her proved to be far more eventful than even he bargained for.
BrilliantRain: There are those who would note that sometimes, sometimes, you get the things you really need instead of the things you deserve.
Kailan: If people only ever got what they deserved, the world would be a more miserable place.

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GreyZombie
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10 Jul 2006, 18:35

Once again it was a fun read, You are very talented, if I do say so.
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10 Jul 2006, 19:35

^.^, Xilanda Super essence Babies running around....


SEQUEL!
*snicker* but i really would love to see the evolution of Solitary Coil and E'lail that..has to be interesting.
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10 Jul 2006, 22:06

My cries were not for naught! Coil gets lovin'!
 
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11 Jul 2006, 00:05

Oh dear God.

I *may* do a bit more with Solitary Coil. For the time begin, I'm done with Xilanada and Sen. I could probably come up with plot but...man, I spent 4 months this year writing this story and I'm tired!

Yes, Sen's Essence 4. Xilanada's Essence 6. Do the math on the kids. ;)

Yeah, I don't know where the Solitary Coil/E'lial thing came from. It just kinda...happened. Who knows? The pairing amuses me enought that Solitary Coil might actually make an appearance in the Pivot Child, even though she was not in that campaign. :)

Besides, a Chosen of Battles/No Moon pairing is just...interesting.
BrilliantRain: There are those who would note that sometimes, sometimes, you get the things you really need instead of the things you deserve.
Kailan: If people only ever got what they deserved, the world would be a more miserable place.

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12 Jul 2006, 17:47

*nods* Much liking... but the essence traits only kick in for half-castes... so... if the kid isn't a half-caste, he or she will exalt as a DB. :twisted:
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Re: Xilanada - Epilogue

05 Jan 2015, 18:41

Hmm…long review time. In some ways it seems kind of foolish, since the stories been up there for a while and obviously things have changed for you as an author since. Regardless I did read all the way to the end and as such it would be discourteous not to say something. Please note that, while critical commentary may follow, I did read the story all the way to the end, and I don’t read fanfiction that isn’t actually good to the end (especially not at novel length).

Going to break this into bits I think (note this review contains spoilers).

First off, the prose-y things. Generally this is quite well written. Flow is good, voice and style are consistent, and there aren’t any sort of egregious grammatical snarls or other nastiness that distract or make it difficult to read. There is a tendency to jump back into the pluperfect and similar structures at points, which is unnecessarily distancing, but it doesn’t happen often – maybe one or two multi-paragraph sections in each book. The one big exception is the use of singular exalted labels in the place of their plural forms ie. Solar when Solars would be properly utilized. I’m not sure why this choice was made, since as far as I can tell neither first edition nor second edition material was written this way. It is distracting and quite jarring. By the end whenever that showed up it really pulled me out of the narrative. On a more prosaic note, portions of the story, especially in Fourfold Dissonance and Descending Dark, got chomped on by the Formatting Spiders and have ’ in place of every apostrophe and quotation mark. That was a bit laborious to slog through.

Second, mechanics things. I’m not going to make any specific sort of notation about actual charms or spells, given the massive edition to edition changes in the setting and the general problems with various forms of Exalted mechanics, especially in combat, there were a few things that stood out as noteworthy of discussion. One has to do with the timeline, which is vague at points, but it seems to be that this is mostly happening in 766, however it’s difficult to tell, as events don’t quite seem to fit that. In particular the general awareness of Abyssal activity, and the high power level of Secret Glory in Abjection (who has been Exalted for a maximum of 3 years if the date is correct) don’t really mesh with my impressions.

The other thing that, consequential of timeline, that I wonder about has to do with Final Starry Night/Xilanada’s past lives. She’s obviously aware of them, but since she’s equally obviously not a Jade Prison exaltation, shouldn’t she have lived many (short, violent) lives since the Usurpation. Admittedly this is characteristic of non-Jade Prison Solars that published material has also mostly ignored, but it struck me that a story so heavily focused on personal identity might potentially touch upon.

Thirdly, the plotline. Personally, while I like the story overall, I found it to be stronger in the earlier parts, with more of the focus on Xilanada and what she was doing in her life. The somewhat convoluted demon-summoning/Abyssal takeover/Sidereal manipulation plotline that takes over Regretted Truths seems rushed and to a degree strained. It also tends to partial anti-climax, in that the big payoff, in setting-impacting terms, seems to be the release of Relentless Tyranny but that particular incident is far from the most convincing or engrossing incident in the story. The majority of the novel proceeds very much as Xilanada’s story, only for the conclusion to mostly impose itself on her from outside her dramatic context.

Fourth big thing is the characters. The principal characters, Final Starry Night/Xilanada, Solitary Coil, and Sen are excellent, with strong, multi-faceted portrayals, real crises, and significant development. They are absolutely the heart and strength of this story and you deserve significant props for creating them and handling them effectively, especially given the constraints of high-essence characters in Exalted.

Other characters are more varied. Several supporting characters, notably Seya and E’lial, shine. Others are less deftly handled, particularly towards the conclusion. The side plot involving Ava and Glee in Regretted Truths is far less convincing than other storylines and the weird mind-twisting stuff that happens to Ava, while a legitimate setting element, distorts her narrative in funny ways I found hard to parse. It also would have been nice to see more of Malias, who comes off as rather distant despite serving as more or less the principle villain.

Finally, with regards to types of themes and scenes, I want to deeply compliment you on the romantic presentation and personal drama of the main Xilanada plotline, which is absolutely the heart and strength of this piece and is very well handled, especially given the challenges of realistically portraying the personalities of high essence characters. The dramatic personal scenes and introspective moments are extremely well done.
By contrast, the narrative weakens and drags whenever fighting breaks out. Partly this is due to the inherent imbalances and unworkable mechanics that are a feature of Exalted combat as a whole, especially at high essence (the published Exalted novels do a pretty crummy job of handling charm-heavy combat too), but overall I think the combat scenes could be enhanced with more detail and a somewhat slower, less chaotic presentation. Also, Xilanada’s sheer overwhelming power kind of drains that tension out of her combat sequences, while several of the dragon-blooded centred combats play out better.

In conclusion this is a very good Exalted story. It could probably due with some tightening at points, particularly in the combat scenes, but that’s the only significant issue.

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