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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "All That Glitters"

This poem comes from the July 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It began with a prompt from janetmiles about how those who have the gold, make the rules.  From laffingkat and haikujaguar came the importance of small, everyday magical items.  eseme threw in the idea of a character who isn't a hero, just an ordinary employee.  The poem was sponsored by janetmiles.

Now it happens that I've had an idea simmering away in the back of mind for some time, about a fantasy setting with lots of little nationalities, each with a different form of government.  I'd just written "Down the Drain" which is set in a plutocracy, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to develop that society further.  The Plutocracy of Aurea considers wealth an indicator of competence and wit, with the interesting adjunct of investing in practical magics to provide a foundation for advanced social development and leisure.  They run to elemental magic, with different proportions of the elements manifesting in different populations.  I like  this setting.  It is a long, long way from the Kingdom of McFantasyLand.

All That Glitters

Ritaine felt proud of her position.
She held the most important job in the world:
she was an Accountant.
Without them to manage the flow of money,
nobody else could do any work at all.

Ritaine loved her office.
She gave thanks every day
that she lived in the Plutocracy of Aurea,
where people had the gods-given sense
to invest in everyday magics and not just frills.
So she opened her windows to breezes and sunbeams,
screened against insects by a cunning little charm.
Her quill would chirp at her if she made an error
in calculation or spelling, although to be fair,
the thing counted far better than it spelled.
A set of nine square brushes scurried around the floor,
alone or in groups, keeping it meticulously clean.
She had a magic rope to lift heavy file cabinets,
and an enchanted lantern to light the room after nightfall.
She couldn't imagine trying to do all this without them.

Ritaine enjoyed her work.
She handled a dozen accounts,
carefully tallying income and expenses
and all the other little steps
that made the endless dance of wealth
such a wonder to behold.
When she finished each update,
she sent off the news with a flick of Air magic,
quick as you please, alerting all the other Accountants.
It only made sense  that the people
who amassed the most money would make the rules.
Who else knew more about how the world worked?

Oh, the job had its drawbacks.
Now and again, some rival would strike out
and curse her with dyscalculia,
so that she had to take off a day or two
until her numeric sense recovered.
She knew, too, that there were government offices
higher and brighter and glittering with more gold than hers;
but she liked  working where she was.

Ritaine touched reverent fingertips
to the bullion buttons of her uniform,
counting off the cornerstones of her life:
one, two, three, four, five.
The numbers in their perfect promenade
were power enough for her.

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Current Mood: busy busy

10 comments or Leave a comment
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 6th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Immediate, and completely disparate, reactions:

"I'm so glad I'm a beta! Alphas work so hard, and epsilons have such ugly clothes."

"Oooh, pretty numbers, happy Janet."

And a third -- if it's so easy to curse someone with, say, dyscalculia, why aren't there protective amulets or spells to repel curses?
siege From: siege Date: July 6th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course there would be. There are also ways around any ward or charm. It's the battle of better weapons against better defenses, and it is eternal so long as there is incentive for struggle of any kind.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC) (Link)



I've been mulling over the details and haven't had time to write a specific response, but basically there's always a kind of arms race beteween attack and defense whether physical or metaphysical. Some things are easier to block than others; some things don't have a block invented yet, so will go right through; and so forth.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2011 07:43 am (UTC) (Link)


>> "I'm so glad I'm a beta! Alphas work so hard, and epsilons have such ugly clothes." <<

*laugh* Yeah, I thought of that too. On the other hoof, it's good contrast with Ehlon, who started out hating his job and is gradually coming to terms with the position.

One of the basic premises for "The Ocracies" setting is that each society has some people who like it that way. The percentage of satisfied citizens may vary, and the permeability of borders may be high or low; but there's always a bunch of folks who benefit from the status quo and can express why their society is awesome. Conversely, there will always be people dissatisfied with their society and/or their own place in it. None of the places are perfect.

>> "Oooh, pretty numbers, happy Janet." <<

Yay! That's good to hear. I figured that a plutocracy would be very fond of math. It never hurts to throw out another female character who excels at crunching numbers.

>>And a third -- if it's so easy to curse someone with, say, dyscalculia, why aren't there protective amulets or spells to repel curses?<<

There's always a kind of arms race between attack and defense. What we know so far is that the curse is possible to cast, has hit this character more than once, and varies in duration. Some potential implications...

* It's probably a mid-level curse, neither super easy nor super difficult. Not everyone could cast it, but a fair number of people could. It has a moderate effect, limited in time; and it's aggravating rather than devastating.

* It's probably influenced by the caster's skill, base power, and/or the target's magic resistance or natural shielding. Those vary, so the duration varies.

* It might or might not have a specific or general defensive spell or artifact that blocks it (or dispels it). If a spell, someone might or might not know it or be able to cast quick enough. If an artifact, that might be costly -- especially for an occasional nuisance that wears off on its own. Having someone else break it would almost certainly cost money. If natural shields block it, that could cause the curse to fail (or even rebound) sometimes but not always.

* People jockey for position and, in many competitive situations, will do things to sabotage each other. This is just one example of something that's mean but doesn't cause lasting harm, and is aimed at inconveniencing a rival. The type of attack -- magical, and numerical -- fits the parameters of this particular society.

This kind of question is useful because I'm just starting to develop the setting, both the small-scale and large-scale aspects. So thank you!

eseme From: eseme Date: July 7th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay for the math whiz!

I do like the ordinary folks who aren't saving the world.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Yes, it's fun to focus on characters who aren't high-caliber heroes.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)


Now that you mention it, I think I remember that. It would've been shortly before they started diversifying the elves etc. into separate cultures, which I also loved.
my_partner_doug From: my_partner_doug Date: July 7th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Ah, yes!

The Gazetteer series, I remember them well: The Dwarves of Rockhome, The Elves of Alfheim, The Five Shires, all racial-based; The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, The Kingdom of Irendi, The Republic of Darokin, all modeled on different power structures. Over a dozen very extensive modules, all interconnected to make a very expansive, and well-executed world, rivaled in size and scope only by The Judge's Guild's City-State of the Invincible Overlord and its innumerable expansion sets.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2011 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ah, yes!


Times like these make me glad that I took up with a geek instead of a jock.
yotogi From: yotogi Date: July 7th, 2011 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ah, yes!

Ohhhh, y'all are talking about Mystara.
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