I'm actually cheating a little because I haven't finished this part yet; I'm only halfway done at the most. But eh; I have so much other stuff to do that I really don't know when any of this'll be finished, so I figured I might as well post an update in the same vein a the previous two to show something
is going on.
So, part three. This part is home to one of the most noteworthy changes to Scyther society in the revision: Scyther no longer spend a full year as adolescents.
The thing is, Stalker was right when she told Shadowdart this was stupid. Why would any species of wild predators whose young spend three years unable to hunt and dependent on the older ones to feed them cheerfully add a fourth year on top of that? I mean, if it takes that
long to teach them all that stuff (which is kind of silly in the first place), couldn't they at least just give the Code lessons while they're still Descith, with the bits they can't do then being taught in a hurry after they evolve? I was already facepalming at this by the time I wrote The Fall of a Leader, but because Scyther's Story had already established it and I didn't exactly have time to rewrite that then, I just handwaved it (um, the Leader needs to think up his lessons! And that takes ages for each one! Totally!) and hoped nobody noticed.
But now that I am rewriting it, I am addressing this. Descith still evolve in the spring, but now they have their First Prey in the early autumn. Why then, in particular? Well, because of another thing that was rather problematic with the old version, namely timing. We know Stormblade and Shadowdart meet Razor when Mark and company are walking through Ruxido, in early June, and at this point Shadowdart is not yet Leader. Furthermore, we know that Stormblade meets Nightmare at some point after the Ouen League that Mark participates in, since at that point she's just been released, and Shadowdart only dies after this. The League finals were on August 31st, but okay, Michael Willows was supposed to attempt to keep training for a bit; technically I can stretch that to sometime in the winter, though that seems unreasonably long.
Where it gets problematic is that Mark and company are supposed to cross paths with the swarm again in the fairly near future of TQftL, at which point Shadowdart is supposed to have been dead for at least some
time. And right now, in the fic, it's early September, whereas Shadowdart, according to The Fall of a Leader as it stands, won't die until sometime in the middle of the winter. This is a problem because Mark and company are going to Ruxido very soon
, to release Letaligon - wouldn't it be kind of silly to either stick around there for several months or leave and then randomly come back?
So what we want, now, is for parts five, six and seven of The Fall of a Leader to all take place sometime in the time period between early June (when Stormblade and Shadowdart meet Mark and company at the end of part four) and sometime in September (near-future second meeting). Part five already has Shadowdart defeating the Leader the day after the first meeting, at a quick skim (at most it's the day after that), so that's taken care of. Then the First Prey lessons start soon after that, and Stalker can't have had her First Prey when she dies, so the First Prey needs to be sometime late enough for it to make sense that the entirety of part six happened before that point. So early autumn it is.
This really doesn't change that much for the actual story
, interestingly enough; it just means that Razor hasn't evolved by the time of Stormblade's First Prey and Shadowdart hasn't evolved by the time of Razor's, a couple of seasonal indicators change, and a few lines of dialogue in The Fall of a Leader get messed with.
Preview, as usual. Leader-POV! I really don't like how I originally wrote the Leader's lessons in Scyther's Story; there are just sentences all over the place that are ridiculous and it beats the reader over the head with "THE LEADER IS BAD, M'KAY?" and his personality kind of jumps all over the place and I never formed a coherent picture of how he
viewed the Code like I did for Shadowdart in The Fall of a Leader. Most prominently, I never properly decided whether he actually had
a coherent view of it to begin with or was just a bully using the Code as an excuse to oppress everyone (because HE'S BAD, M'KAY?).
So here's the first part of my attempt to fix that. The answer is: he does have a view of the Code, but it's quite different from Shadowdart's in the details and overlaps suspiciously with his need to keep everyone else down to retain his feeling of being in control. And, well, he's still pretty bad, but I hope the fact he's more coherently so makes him feel less mustache-twirlingly evil.
Out of all of the swarm’s many rituals and traditions, the Leader’s favorite – or at least the one he most enjoyed his own part in – was the traditional series of lectures that all young Scyther attended between their evolution in the spring and their First Prey in the early autumn. It was a delicate time for them: they were physically adults, with everything that came with it, and to boot it was the fertility season, but the swarm would not regard them as full adults with the right to mate and have proper duels until they had hunted and killed for the first time. And that would not happen until they had been formally instructed in the mores and traditions of Scyther society.
In practice, the lectures were his chance to verbally beat potential rebels into submission, to force them to stay within well-defined boundaries where they wouldn’t do anything unexpected. Unruly children could be transformed into obedient, rule-abiding swarm members during these few months of adolescence, and over the course of his long reign as Leader, he had gotten quite good at it.
“The Code,” he began his first lesson that year, with six wide-eyed adolescents looking up at him as he sat on the Leader’s rock, “is the ancient body of rules, morals and rituals passed down among the Scyther since the beginning of time. At the center of it lies the Moral Code, the five most fundamental laws of our society.
“Breaking the Code is a heinous offense; breaking the Moral Code is to forfeit your right to consider yourself a Scyther. The only way to redemption if you have broken it is to slit your own throat – what we call a suicide of guilt. It is the ultimate realization of the wrong you have done and the ultimate proof that you have overcome your fear of death – fear of death being the greatest sin the Moral Code describes. If, having broken the Moral Code, you fail to commit suicide of guilt,” – here he glared over the group for additional emphasis – “you are disgusting worms, unworthy of the Scyther name, and will be cast away from the swarm forever to die alone in shame.”
They looked at him in stunned silence, and he regarded their intimidated expressions with satisfaction. The more silent they were, the more scared, the better. The only way to conquer one fear was to replace it with other, greater fears, and the only way to effectively prohibit an act was to make them dread the consequences. Fear was the greatest teacher of all.
He only had a couple of months to make them fear him more than they feared death itself, and he would make them count.
Most importantly, there is a new emphasis on fear here that was only very vaguely present before. The Leader is someone who would very much think of fear as a tool, because he has never had anything to fear: he's unusually strong from birth, gets into a position of power at a young age and has retained it with relative ease ever since. He's familiar with a distant sort of fear - fear of the idea
of losing his position, which he has employed various means to secure himself against - but not really as that crippling, immediate thing. He then views fear as a quick method of manipulation, an easy shortcut to keeping others in line - and, more importantly, genuinely believes
it's simply the best way to teach them. So now, instead of appealing to reputation - something rather arbitrary that the Scyther are never subsequently shown to really care about - he just appeals to the adolescents' fear of isolation and rejection to make them obey the Code.
This also fits better with the effects his lessons turn out to have on Shadowdart, because of course piling on a fear of failure is just going to make a previously nervous, insecure individual like him have a breakdown when what he's attempting proves unexpectedly difficult. And the Leader would never properly get that because real, immediate
fear and insecurity are so alien to him. Until Shadowdart starts challenging him, of course.