Polychrome – Chapter 24

Polychrome – Chapter 24

Chapter 24.

“He is clever! And lucky! Oh, Father, this might work, it might really work after all!” Polychrome was dancing around the viewing pool, the perfectly circular bowl of mist and rainbow through which Iris and those in the throne room could, when he willed it, see that which passed in the area of the Jewel of the Bridge.

Iris watched her closely, a faint smile on his lips but a chill in his heart. He glanced over at Nimbus, whose gaze met his grimly. It has begun.

There were so many things his instincts told him to do, to try and avert that which seemed more and more inevitable. But none of them did he dare. Any attempt to interfere could – almost certainly would – recoil upon him and his entire realm.

And instead I must take the hardest path of all. “It may indeed, daughter. A long road ahead of him, but thus far he has taken steps straight and true.”

She nodded, watching as Erik Medon left the Throneroom of Gilgad, then turned back to him as he continued to speak. “But there are more pressing matters today, Polychrome Glory.”

That gained her undivided attention. “Yes, Father?”

Carefully. Carefully. “Did you mean what you told me – and him – some time ago? That it was your will that you be present, even at the final battle?”

The delicate face hardened, the chin came up in the stubborn way he knew all too well. “You are not about to argue me out of it, Father!”

He raised his hand. “Speak not to me in such a tone, Polychrome. Yet know that I have no intention of arguing with you; long since have I given up any hope of persuading you to do anything save that which is already in your mind.”

A brief flash of a smile like the sun itself, and she bowed. “My apologies, my Royal Father.”

“Accepted as always, errant yet beloved.” He sighed. “Polychrome, if the field of war you would take, then prepared you must be, as prepared as any of my warriors – as prepared, indeed, as the finest of them, for you shall lead them.”

So shocked was she that the ever-dancing feet halted in mid-step and she stumbled. “What?” She glanced in confusion at Nimbus, then back to him. “Lead them?”

“Not in the details of war and strategy, My Lady.” Nimbus said. “What Lord Iris Mirabilis means is that you shall be the High Commander and his representative, though I shall of course continue to direct military matters.”

Polychrome looked suddenly uncertain. “Father?”

The lordly smile he wore was one of the hardest expressions he had ever had to maintain, against the twin fears he had. “Polychrome, I must remain here. Well you know the power of our enemies, and I will – as the Prophecy requires – be in essence emptying all of the Rainbow Land of its warriors. In case Ugu and Amanita attempt, in that time, a strike to the rear, an assault on my kingdom, then only one force remains to me that might defend this castle, this city, this land and all my people: myself. I must remain here, vigilant, ready for any and all threats and assaults that may come while my General and his armies are assaulting the Gray Castle and its legions.

“But still someone of the blood must be present, my hand be shown as clearly as though I myself were there upon the field of battle. Daughters only have I ever had, and of all of them, one, and one alone, has the courage, the will, the strength, and the heart to be my right hand and my sword.” He reached down, and took his daughter’s hand. “You, Polychrome.”

Her eyes were wide, and her grip spasmed tight on his hand as she came to understand. “I…”

“Lady Polychrome,” Nimbus said quietly, “this is simple truth as well as grim and necessary policy. If the assault upon Oz fails, Faerie cannot afford to lose Iris Mirabilis; he remains the sole and only hope the lands have now. Yet if the Rainbow Land falls, we cannot afford to lose hope, and the armies I command must return to take it; but retaking the Rainbow Castle will be of no use if there be none to take the Rainbow Throne. And only one other lives who could rally our people, one other that the other children of Iris Mirabilis will follow, one other whose face is known and loved throughout Faerie, even more so than our King himself.”

It seemed to sink in, finally, and as the lovely face became just a tiny bit older, the shoulders sag beneath an intangible burden and then straighten as though bearing up that weight, Iris Mirabilis thought his heart would simultaneously break for the loss of one more drop of her innocence, and burst with the swell of pride as she accepted the royal burdens. “I… I understand, Father, Nimbus.”

He embraced her then, allowing him a few moments to clear the unshed tears from his eyes. “It is well, daughter. Very well.” He rose and returned to the throne. “So you must train now, and train well, and train hard. As hard, perhaps, as the mortal Erik Medon did, and in some ways harder; for though he is surprisingly kind of heart, and unwilling to do injury, still he has the savagery of his ancestors locked within, and none of a Faerie’s inborn hesitance in warfare, that normally only those of dark and twisted nature may overcome.” He signaled to Nimbus, who bowed and hurried away.

Polychrome grew thoughtful. “I think I see. You can carry the battle to the enemy yourself, Father, and if I am to represent you or…” she hesitated, then forced out the words, “…or succeed you, then I must be fully as formidable as you.”

“As much as may be possible… and much is possible, my daughter.” The tall figure of Nimbus re-entered, carrying the polished silver box, four feet long and two square, that carried the seal of rainbow, spear, and hammer. Iris took the beautiful yet simple case from his General and laid it before Polychrome. “This was a gift to your mother from… your great-aunt, I suppose would be the best term. She never had need of it, for which I was always grateful; but now it has passed to you, her first child, and the time has come.”

Polychrome slowly reached out and touched the box; the seal reacted instantly to her touch, unlocking, the top springing open with a martial chime like a trumpeting bell. From inside, his daughter drew out armor, plate with mail permitting ease of movement, carven with ornate grace to be both elegant protection and shining symbol. “This… was mother’s?”

“In name, yes, although as I said, never did she wear it. I am unsure if she ever opened it, in fact.” He touched the mail, which rippled like water in sunlight. “Forged in the fires of the Above and passed to us. But armor is of little use to one who has not learned to make use of it.”

“Oh, Father… I will. I will learn, Father! I promise!”

Seeing her shining face, imagining herself taking the battlefield in the Armor of the Gods, Iris felt his heart sink once more. Yes, you will. Oh, Father and Mother help me, you will learn.


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13 Responses to Polychrome – Chapter 24

  1. Cobbler says:

    If I understand correctly, they have had Eric training for a year. A year during which Iris knew that Polychrome might—or would—have to play this roll.

    Why on earth didn’t he start training her a year ago? Why wait until the war has started before ordering this brief and inadequate training regime?

    Is training different for whatever Polychrome really is? Can she learn grandmaster level combat over a weekend?

    Can she enter some pocket universe and spend a year training, then return in five local minutes?

    I guess foresight means something different in Oz.

    • Ryk Spoor says:

      Short answer? He didn’t want to believe it would be necessary. He didn’t know if the Hero would work out — would get to the point that he would depart Oz. He didn’t want the Hero to know, either, that Polychrome would be trained as a warrior.

      A conflicted man, Iris Mirabilis. He wanted to keep his little girl safe, and from his point of view that meant keeping her OUT of fights. But now circumstances make it clear that there IS no way to keep her out of it, and practically speaking she is the ONLY choice to succeed him, if things go wrong, so now he has to do the training. (He’s also aware — as mentioned in the earlier parts of the book — that she’s technically “trained” herself a fair amount already, with her dances being based on combat moves to a significant extent.)

      He is an old-fashioned father (with “old-fashioned” having a rather extreme meaning in some areas) forced into difficult circumstances.

      Plus, of course, he has to read the prophecy, then read between its lines, and make guesses as to what would, and would not, be wise moves in those contexts. Since he hasn’t yet revealed the full prophecy to anyone except Nimbus, we don’t know some things that he does.

    • Ryk Spoor says:

      Also, not THAT brief. Months, at least, are left before the war begins.

      • Cobbler says:

        (He’s also aware — as mentioned in the earlier parts of the book — that she’s technically “trained” herself a fair amount already, with her dances being based on combat moves to a significant extent.)

        That makes sense. Even reading it as a kid, there were things I found hard to believe in A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Like humanoid Martians being mutually fertile with humanoid—um—humans. Even if God does roll dice, those are impossible odds.

        But when Gallinger faced off against a temple guardian, I found this believable: “If they had refined their martial arts as far as they had their dances, or worse yet, if their fighting arts were a part of the dance, I was in for trouble.” For just one example, look at how incestuously traditional Chinese martial arts played with traditional Chinese opera.

        I’m not sure why Iris didn’t want Erik to know Polychrome was training. “So she isn’t completely helpless if you fail and we are invaded” should satisfy him. On the other hand, that choice fits into the pattern of denial you’re positing for him.

        • Bibliotheca Servare says:

          Which translates, for me at least, into the realization that Iris was willing to risk the fate of his people, the people of Oz, and all of humanity, not to mention the others that will be affected should they fail and Poly and Iris die, in order to cater to his (understandable) hesitance to commit to the interpretation of the prophecy that places his daughter in mortal danger, not to mention what else might result (unbeknownst to those as haven’t heard the full prophecy) from her martial training, prophetically speaking. (Yay for run-on sentences!) As I said, his hesitance to commit, etc is understandable. Nonetheless, his failure to *act* in *spite* of that hesitance, further ahead of time than “months” especially when he had at minimum a *year* to begin training her, even if only with the justification of “self defense” and even using inferior, non “god-armor” in order to preserve that secret…is, in my potentially -indeed likely- incorrect opinion…an inexcusable failure to justly and rightly carry out his duties as reigning monarch. Prompt action was called for, not hemming and hawing whilst waiting with crossed fingers to see if the mortal hero was going to screw up, thereby saving him (Iris) from having to make an unpleasant decision, the carrying out of which would require at least as much time as was available, and preferably far more! Iris is a father as well as a king, yes. But letting his fear for his daughter get in the way of his proper duty to his people…does those people a grave injustice, in, once again, my admittedly less than fully informed opinion. I’m just thinking out loud here. Pretend I’m a particularly irritating beta-reader, maybe? Heh. Awesome snippet! ;D

          PS: I really do LIKE Iris, you know. Just wanted to make sure I explained that. :)

          • Ryk Spoor says:

            Iris is not particularly proud of his showing in this, put bluntly. For thousands of years he ruled over a land essentially at peace, and though a tradition of war had been his, he had laid it aside, and when the time came and his most beloved daughter returned to him nigh-dead and in terror, he did not react as a warrior should.

            • Bibliotheca Servare says:

              It’s always cool to get inside a characters head directly from the perspective of the creator. I get Iris a little better now. He struck me as a warrior, but. Well I guess I can and should stop there in order to avoid another mini essay, lol. Thanks for the reply. ;) No matter when this comes out, it can’t be soon enough! :) (seriously though, if you get to this, as far back as this snippet is, I hope everyone involved in the publishing process is okay and feeling well enough to wrestle bears…or something similar. No rush!)

              • Ryk Spoor says:

                Well, Bob seems recovered, and he’s currently the one most worrisome for finishing the process.

              • Ryk Spoor says:

                Also, yes, he’s a warrior. But in this… he’s a worried father, and his fears came from at least three sources, of which the Prophecy (that he knows, and we don’t know nearly all of yet) tells him at least two, and possibly all three, are very much in the cards, or even certain.

                Despite (or perhaps because) of her insistence on doing things HER way, Iris looks upon Polychrome the way the Emperor looked upon his daughter in _Shibumi and the Kitemaker_: “She is more precious to me than all of my wealth, or even the heavenly kingdoms themselves.”

    • Grammar nazi says:

      Spell check really has its limitations. It tells you if you’ve spelled a word correctly or not, but it doesn’t tell you if you’ve used the appropriate word. It’s still necessary to proof-read. And the reason for that somewhat pompous introduction is Cobbler’s use of, “roll”, when he/she should have used, “role”.

  2. Shanuson says:

    Hi Mr. Spoor.

    on you website you mention that Polycrome was planed for a November release. No that we write December, is there a new ETA for when we can send you our money for the work of your mind.

    Really like to know if I could find it under the Chrismas tree or not.


    • I wish I could, but — as I wrote on the Kickstarter updates — I’ve been forced to push back release to February; the cover artist was sick and hospitalized for a while and he’s playing catch-up. He intends to have the cover ready by late December/early January, which would allow me to release by February.

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