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Fairies, Ch 2b. - REMF gripes

The more I think about it, the more those REMFs bug me. One of them was middle-aged, differentiated, and wore a dwarven-made sword worth at least two years' pay. Yet he was slack, he moved like an poleaxed ox, and he wore his expensive blade like a raw recruit! Some of them had been in the field once, as grunts, but apparently climbed into the officer ranks behind the fighting lines. Political crap and ass-kissing, throwing their weight around out here on our frontier.

See, there are only two ways to make raw iron into a sword that a mage can use: an artificer or a dwarf craftsman. Both involve magic of a particular type to make the iron carry manna. The artisan trade secrets are closely kept, and the dwarves have the blood talent to work anything non-living. Either one is very expensive, even for a small dagger.

Most dwarves can only work stuff that never was alive - stone and metal. The really talented ones can work stuff that was once alive, but is now dead - aged wood and bone. Every once in a while you see a dwarven-elven cross - they usually have dwarven talents or elven talents, neither in any measure, or (rarely) both. The ones that have both, if they work at it, are very, very, very deadly. If a stumpy looking elf looks at someone, mutters something, and the other person turns to stone? Be really, really polite. It's half dwarf, and has both talents. They also tend to be recluses, fortunately.

So the guy was rich, slack, politically connected, and a sneering jerk, looking down his nose at the undifferentiated career military field officer. I'm lucky my dad warned me about the type, I kept my temper and didn't stake him out as bait for fairies and arachneans. Differentiation is supposed to mellow out abrasive traits, so I wonder what he was like before, and how his connections kept him from being fragged.

It looks like one of my troopers is starting to differentiate, too. She is starting to curve out, get broody, moody and acts like she's on the edge of going into heat. If she diffs, I have to ship her home, her front line military career pretty much over. Arggh - one of my best archers, too. She was lusting after the rich slack-hide, too. Ewwww.

Sometimes combat stress can bring early diff, but so can certain spells. Since unnecessary magic is prohibited in a forward unit, I suspect stress. I have to hike away from camp, to the rear, and find a cave or something to do my diff delay spells in.

Now, the differentiation "experts" tell me that I should diff as a female. The thought is revolting. I wouldn't much want to diff male, either, because that brings other headaches. Now, supposedly they can just look at you and "tell", from your blood, but I wonder if it's more likely the magic of suggestion. I've heard mention from some of the most senior masters that a highly advanced and talented mage (read "very old") can change their diff, or even switch from one to the other. I guess it would aleviate boredom.... I'd rather stay as I am, thank you. I don't want to get stuck rear or retired so I can breed my "replacements times two."

Some days I wonder what the ancients worried about as they lie awake at night. History says they were born differentiated, but that near the Cataclysm the differentiation wasn't always working correctly. Maybe some leave I may have to sneak away into the deadlands and look for remnants. Maybe they kept journals, too. History classes always are so full of debate on the subject of their culture, the little details.

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