I keep attempting to poke at this thing for my "I can't believe it's not Nano" - wherein the Nano is implied because any time I attempt to commit to something, that does horrible terrible no good things to my inspiration/ability to function. I don't think I've fooled my brain, though, because this has been a stone-cold son of a bitch to actually get anything down for. Instead I keep getting heaps and heaps of back story and details.
So this is the kind of detail I keep getting. *makes faces* Elements are kind of a big thing here; not so much Avatar-ish, but it has a lot to do with how their magic works. A person might be anywhere on a spectrum between the four traditional points, with metal being the midpoint between earth and fire, lightning (energy) between fire and air, storm (weather) between air and water, and wood between water and earth. Someone could reasonably expect to be the same alignment as the rest of their family. Sarassa, while not being a magic-using country, still considers alignments the same way you’d think of a personality test or zodiac sign.
As a raw recruit, he thought he may one day end up part of the Queen’s Navy. Perhaps make his name as a marine, see foreign ports around the world, and wear the blue with pride. Sarassa’s navy was amongst the best on the water, and it would be no small feat for a boy from the back hills of Ciant.
And he vividly remembered those dreams breaking not half a day out of dock, during the three month training tour aboard the SMS Dovescote.
He was miserably, violently ill from the day he hit the waves until the day they finally put in to port. He held out hope the first three days that it was seasickness that would soon pass. They told him cheerfully that earth-alignments were notoriously poor at getting their sea legs; he’d just have to shake that country dirt off him. On the fourth, his bunkmates hauled him half-conscious before the medic.
In and out of coherence, he still heard the low conversation between the medic and his officer.
"Worse. Metal, the poor sod."
The officer hissed his breath out between his teeth, disappointed, “Nothing for it then.”
There’s a saying amongst the navy, that earth could soak up water and grow roots right into the ship, but metal sank. Pure fire was right out; no sailor would risk his ship for flame. Elemental superstition, maybe, yet there was no denying that some people couldn’t be at home on the water no matter how hard they tried. Rafael was in no position to argue the theory.
They offered to put him off at the next mainland port, but Rafe’s pride wouldn’t have it, limping home in disgrace not a year after he left. He served the tour to the best of his limited ability, growing ever paler and ever thinner, until even the veteran marines admired his cussed stubbornness.
He may sink like metal, but he’d have a spine of steel.
Back on solid ground, he had to work twice as hard at the garrison to pull his marks up. He finished his year and a half of training in the top tier of cadets, with a permanent note on his file: “constitutionally incapable of naval service.”
Every man and woman born has an alignment within the compass rose. In Alkhenia, it is custom that a shaman read that alignment twice in a person's life. Once, at their first year's end, when the parents are to name their child properly before their kin, folk, and the spirits. And again, after their sixteenth year, when a person is no longer a child and declares their true name for all to hear and know them. For some, the first reading was weak; the shaman would place their hands on the compass but the pendulum would barely swing, or swing and refuse to stop. The parents would sigh, know their child to be changeable, and resign themselves to a very unruly handful of years.
Surely they must settle, as everyone does. Everyone has one true nature, and it must show.
For the fourth child of the Sun, the pendulum does not so much swing as gyrate. It makes wild, long loops across the board, crossing longest over air and fire but refusing to stop anywhere within. Fire is his father, air is his mother; it would be a reasonable place to begin. They exchange looks, knowing and wry. "Tempest."
"He's going to raise hell, isn't he?"
(He takes some comfort from the fact that at least they knew perfectly well what they were getting into. He might grow out of the name, but for many years, he blows hot and cold, cannot be caught with rope nor duty, and generally leaves unruly disorder in his wake.)
When Tempest reaches adulthood, the pendulum does not so much swing as wander. It begins with the far reaches of Air, then Lightning, does not quite pass through Fire to the extent of Metal, and orbits back through the shallow reaches of each of the elements. The shaman holding her hands laced over the teen's smiles faintly, then backs away, leaving the compass held solely in his hands. The compass still moves, pendulum restlessly tracking across every element.
And he finds that there is a difference between knowing and knowing. It is affirmation, it is shame, it is disappointment, and it is a release of all the might-have-beens and maybes for what is.
His elder prompts gently, "You know your true name, and your true affinity. Speak now for all to know you."
"Yes, greataunt. I am Foxfire, and I am all and none."
Her bony hand squeezed his shoulder, her eyes holding the only true smile in the audience. "You are a shaman, and even if you never know one true north, know that you are my kin and I am proud of you."
Foxfire basically showed up and went " I named myself after swamp gas! This is how I roll." So yes, word of warning that all the names are so bullshitted. Especially the locations. (It goes country - Sarassa, state/region - Ciant, city - Paracen.) And even then I catch myself spelling them wrong so AHAHAHA internal consistency what internal consistency? Sarassa is basically my fantasy Italy/Greece Mediterranean equivalent. You want the history of Sarassa, I can give you that! I can tell you what the city is like, how the three Watches of the Guard generally operate, how this poor bastard Rafe has generally spent any given year of his life. . . ALL OF THAT. Write you a coherent story involving the aftermath of foreign interests and prejudice intersecting with magic and mayhem, well, I'm afraid I'm fresh out. Augh.
The story is supposed to be: Rafael's a stubborn, stiff-necked, ill-favored Lieutenant of the Night Watch! Foxfire is a wastrel dilettante being pressed into service as an envoy from the magic-using country everyone hates and fears! THEY FIGHT CRIME! (And stop wars.)