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Illumination 2 page 34

Illumination 2 page 34 published on 85 Comments on Illumination 2 page 34

And with that is the of the chapter! Read the post below for info about the hiatus and Reader Questions!

Thank you all for reading! I didn’t plan on the chapter ending right at the end of the year, but it worked out perfectly! I’ve been working hard to get to this part of the story, and I’m excited to finish up this arc soon! It’s been a great 10 years of Skin Deep!! Here’s to many more!


What an awesome end to the chapter.

Also, happy early New Year! [blows squeaker]

“May you
Live in interesting times” IT might just be me but I am pretty sure that that is a Terry Pratchett reference and I’m losing my shit

It’s not, it’s an older saying that Pratchett referenced, attributed in what I’ve seen to “the Chinese” but edit! I see down below that that’s contested, and it always did sound kinda like “let’s make this sound profound with a link to the Mysterious East”

Part of Pterry’s brilliance was pulling somewhat-obscure pieces of actual human stuff into Discworld (like! my fave example – the trolls seeing the future behind them and the past in front of them. The Aymara people have that in language & gesture in the real world.)

(also wooo! just caught up! I lost track mid-chapter 1 of illuminations, and am so thrilled Skin Horse is back!!!)

Interesting times indeed! With the magical power of an entire race contained in one young woman.

I somehow don’t think she’s the *only* one. Michael’s message said “the Jocastas… the Wosrets”. Two names, both pluralised. There may not be many, which still makes each one potentially quite powerful… and I’m not convinced they’re helpless victims with his ambiguous “we must stop them”.

Even if she isn’t the only one, there is the possibility that the other sphinxes are just as clueless to their nature as Michelle used to be, so until they tap into their power, Michelle will be a vessel for the entirety (or at least a huge portion) of her race’s power and knowledge.

Michael said the names, pluralised as FAMILY NAMES.
He did not say them as if there were more than one remaining within each family.

This is true, of course, and doesn’t even imply that either of those families have any active or knowledgeable sphinxes in them. Indeed, Sam’s tale could indicate another sphinx IS aware of their family’s history and remains unable or even incapable of changing form. It may very well be that Michelle’s amulet is the last sphinx amulet on Earth and those sphinxes less informed of amulet lore may be desperate to get their hands on it.

Or perhaps third-party Others are becoming aware of who other potential sphinxes could be and Michelle “must stop” these Others and protect otherwise-ignorant bloodlines. The demons seems to think of her as some sort of specimen or collectible… perhaps other sphinxes would devalue her or dilute her magical potential from being used for some nefarious scheme.

But it does imply there’s at least one more Jocasta line apart from Michelle’s, and at least one Wosret family line still extant. Whether or not those lines have been more successful than Michelle’s remains to be seen. Quite honestly, Michelle’s immediate family almost universally dying young(ish) is quite suspicious, and could indicate a curse or more… direct intervention. One lesson the side stories drive home, though, is that just because someone is a Mythical doesn’t make them a Good Guy.

I agree with Lynx-Eye. While Michael’s message WAS very vague, it neither confirms nor denies the possibility that there may be other (unturned) sphinxes out there. It all depends on how many offspring Wosret and Jocasta had.

I doubt it’s a large “family tree”, though; if there ARE other sphinxes, I’d wager you can still count them on the fingers of two hands. Maybe even just on the fingers of ONE hand. And that’s IF Michelle could find them and make medallions for them.

Woot! Thank you Kory Bing for this past years story! I can’t wait for next year to come! I also have a reader question: what happens when a creature with a lot of fur gets out of the shower? Do they towel dry themselves or use a hair dryer and risk the possibility of looking like a poofy ball of fur? : D

Nice, a reference to Discworld.
But honestly, it’s the natire of stories.

I believe that line is MUCH older than Discworld.

It’s an English expression from the late 1800s. I’ve never read the Discworld books so there will never be a Discworld reference in Skin Deep, sorry!

What I’ve heard said is, that it is an old asian saying, since there losing one’s face has been something one would really not wish to suffer, nor was it considered suitable for another to purposefully cause it to another either.

So insulting people got a bit tricky and saying “may you live in interesting times” was pretty much the worse you could say without any participants in the conversation losing face over the words spoken.

Granted, it did entitle small things like hoping you’d face famine, poverty in general, war, loss of family and whatever else one could consider… Interesting…

Actually, it is probably NOT an old Chinese saying. I asked a Chinese friend of mine, and SHE says she’s never heard it before.

A lot of research later, and as far as I can tell, at this time no authentic Chinese saying to this effect has ever been found, and nobody has ever been able to confirm the Chinese origin claim.

I traced the expression to the British diplomatic service in China circa 1936. Austen Chamberlain was the earliest known person to say that “may you live in interesting times” was a Chinese curse, and his father Joseph Chamberlain used a very similar phrase during addresses he delivered in 1898 and 1901. So it’s possible that he was quoting something he heard his father say, and misattributed it to the Chinese.

Yeah, I always heard it was an ‘ancient Chinese curse’. Of course, it’s clearly been floated around so much in various cultures and whatnot it’s basically impossible to say where it actually came from.

Either way, though, I’d consider it a curse for sure.

Also it’s traditionally presented as a Chinese curse, Chinese people have denied this. I guess the “Chinese curse” thing was just a way to pass it as some foreign wisdom; China was renowned for for its philosophers such as Confucius, and exotic enough that most people in the West wouldn’t correct you the way they would if you presented it as, for example, a Greek or German saying. Several historically important people mentioned it as a Chinese curse in public speech, and it has also been presented as such in various movies, so this perception is likely going to remain.

Well, it is apparently NOT a Chinese curse; a Chinese friend of mine says she’s never even heard it before. I did some research, and the furthest back I could trace it was to a British diplomat who had worked in China, circa 1936.

HE said it was a Chinese curse, but his father had said almost exactly the same thing (minus the “Chinese curse” bit) in two speeches back in 1898 and 1901, so it’s entirely possible that he was quoting something his father had said, and misattributing it to the Chinese.

Am I the only one reading the “interesting times” bit as foreshadowing that the nonhuman community is going to start becoming more… obvious, for lack of a better word? It feels like it would be too small a note to end such a big chapter on if that “interesting times” thing doesn’t go anywhere. Either way, I foresee changes coming in the nonhuman community (and honestly I hope they’re in the direction of becoming visible to human society because I’m a sucker for watching masquerades come crashing down).

The other way times could become more….. interesting…. is if the Demons and the Dragons pay the caves a visit.

While demonic and draconic action is certainly a likely development, I’m sure that there are more than two ways for things to become “interesting”. It’s almost like the classic mistake of asking, “What ELSE can go wrong?”

That self-curse is usually equally as dangerous as the ‘Chinese curse’ James mentions in this page.
The big difference between them is one is targeted at other people, usually over the coming weeks/months, the other which you mention, is invariably targeted at yourself, and usually tends to show its effects straight away with no delay.

What, finally discovering why your family has been guarding something for hundreds of years and then seeing the possibly last member of a supposedly extinct species gaining uber magic from that thing in front of you isn’t interesting enough?

Of course this is going somewhere, and James can see that. You can’t have this much magic in one place without *something* interesting coming of it. :)

I really hope Michelle didn’t just get mind-fucked. Also I have officially HAD IT WITH RAVI! He can rot in hell for all I care for his caviler attitude while Michelle could be in danger of hurting herself. I don’t care if Michelle is totally fine by the end of this, Ravi is dead to me.

I’m torn on Ravi. On one hand, he drives me nuts. On the other hand, he’s the least *human* character in the cast, and that makes him very interesting. Everything he says and does makes it clear that his thought processes are totally different than what we would consider normal. He’s not evil or insane or indifferent, but he comes across badly because his whole worldview is alien. For Ravi, being ‘human’ is like speaking a partly-learned foreign language. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with him in-person, but he’s fun to watch.

While Sabreur does make some good points, I have to agree that Ravi cheerfully not caring that Michelle could be in danger isn’t really excusable and just makes me want to smack him.

I see it more as: He knows she’s not in danger (or not in immediate danger) but because of how he sees the world, he doesn’t think he needs to tell anyone that.

Because they should know.

She’s been in danger since she turned, from the demons, from the dragons, from any sorcerors (human or cryptid) who might want the power of the egg…

So maybe he DOES care, but he feels that this is the best way to minimize those other dangers. We’ve seen what she can do (accidentally, even!) with her power; once she has unlocked ALL her power and the knowledge to use it, she will have the upper hand in any future encounters unless they totally catch her by surprise.

As for Ravi… I agree with Sabreur. I’m willing to give him some leeway because of his totally alien worldview. Remember that he’s either a god of nature, or the second-best thing to a god (depending on which stories about his race you give more credence to).

Still doesn’t mean I’d want to deal with him in person very much, though. His alien worldview makes his attitude understandable… but also annoying, best taken in very small doses.

From the moment she turned, she’s ALWAYS been in danger, either from the demons or the dragons or possibly even other cryptids.

In other words, the reason Ravi seems so cavalier about the possibility that Michelle could be in danger is because, from his point of view, everyone ALREADY knows she’s in danger, so there’s no point in alarming anyone.

(Having said that, I still don’t like Ravi much, but I understand why he behaves the way he does.)

aw. I’m gonna have to disagree with you, after you pointed me back to skin deep :(

Ravi is DEFINITELY why nobody wants to deal with immortals, but seems to me he’s doin his best! And saying this is the start of something new and powerful shows exactly the level of danger he’s expecting, i.e. nothing directly from this, but plenty to come – for which this is likely to help Michelle a whole lot even if it’s creepy.

That is, *if* he’s right — and reading all of this chapter in one go makes it really clear to me that his admission he doesn’t necessarily know is a *first*, and he actually managed it instead of going back to his all-knowing image that he’s had for umpty thousand years, which is better than a lot of people are willing to manage by their forties.

So I’m Team Ravi! As Not-Bad As An Immortal Could Be :D

She certainly seems pretty overloaded at the moment.

I do wonder why the egg is outside the Avalon, if it’s such a powerful magical artifact. If the egg is so powerful, mysterious, and valuable to need a maze of caverns and a designated guardian (who is supposed to have magical abilities) to keep it safe then why is it so far from any potential help? Although, I guess if the guardian has some sort of magical ability that means they probably wouldn’t NEED much help. It still seems strange, as the vision from when Michelle touched Phineas’ tomb seemed to imply that the creation of the medallions, the creation of the Avalon, and the hiding of the egg were at least close in time. Hmmmmm. Wait a moment, according to the vision from the egg the sphinxes were the elders making decisions when Jocasta decided to start making medallions for anyone who wanted one. That seems to be the role of the current Nemean Elders (council? I can’t remember, anyways, they’re kinda in charge of the Avalon now). Did the Sphinx Elders forbid the making of medallions for dragons (like with the Nemeans?) and basically start the dragons hunting for those with medallions/making medallions? Because they think they deserve to have medallions, too. If the Sphinx Elders said no to the dragons getting medallions, start hunting those with medallions to try and get the medallions to work for them? And then started attacking the smithies, trying to get medallions at the source, as it were. Medallions not made for dragons wouldn’t work for dragons, so more hunting, eventually it snowballs to just destroying the presses and the smithies and killing the sphinxes as trophies. Jocasta and Wosret come up with a plan to survive by going full on underground (the egg going into the caverns guarded by Phineas and his heirs with the help of Ravi’s magic gift, and them disappearing among the humans so they don’t go extinct) if they are in danger. I’m unsure why the dragons were thought to be extinct, though, unless mutual destruction was staged. Also, I do wonder if the lack of medallions for a lot of species (the “monsters” mostly, as I’m guessing Wonderlanders weren’t really around back then) was because Jocasta and Wosret never got to them before they had to enact their plan. Jocasta was going to stop denying medallions at all, perhaps she (they) only managed so many species.

Sorry for the ridiculously long theorizing, I may have gotten a little excited.

>I do wonder why the egg is outside the Avalon, if it’s such a powerful magical artifact. If the egg is so powerful, mysterious, and valuable to need a maze of caverns and a designated guardian (who is supposed to have magical abilities) to keep it safe then why is it so far from any potential help?

Because the sort of people who would live in an Avalon are exactly the sort of people you’d be busy protecting it from, presumably.

The Nemean Elders don’t rule the Avalon, they rule the pride of Nemean Lions living there. It’s a sub-government :D
Quite probably, or the dragons thought that removing the possibility of hiding would force a war they thought they could win. Or both. After all, they never kidnapped, or stole. They just destroyed. (from the PoV we have, maybe unreliable)
Dragons probably did similar things, hiding wise. They COULDN’T fit easily in most avalons (they seem an order of magnitude larger than most Cryptoids) so they hid in their own places, waiting, waiting for a sphynx so they could finally reverse their mistake and get themselves some medallions.

Wonderlanders – weird real place in england. England seems pretty far out/unnoticed in the time of medallions, so they explains them easily enough. Creatures that already hid from most other Cryptoids, let alone humans.

We don’t know, nescessarily, that Jocasta was gonna let EVERYONE get medallions, but if so, it was probably a mix of time (until she was forcibly stopped), nearby creatures (ones already in england/nearby getting priority) and not knowing specific ‘monsters’ But yeah, that’s pretty much the theory.

Ahhh, ok, I guess I missed that bit.

It may have also been a matter of pride. What if the dragons saw the idea of hiding, of acting like humans, as completely reprehensible? As an insult to their superior, noble lineage. Perhaps that would be enough to just attack and destroy and kill. The dragons would see it as them defending their ideals, the Sphinxes would see it as preventing them from going into hiding. I don’t know about what the dragons are thinking now, but it did seem like they were waiting for a Sphinx to reappear. Bloodcarver snatching Michelle definitely points to them waiting for a sphinx (I don’t actually remember if he said anything about waiting for a sphinx).

It certainly seems like that was her plan, she distinctly says “Refusing medallions is the source of all the problems on the mainland! Who are we to create this gift and then deny it to some for arbitrary reasons?” ( Also, “It’s our technology, we have every right to use it as we see fit! And I see fit to not leave anyone exposed to the cruelty of the humans if there’s something I can DO about it.” ( So it certainly seems like she was going to make medallions for EVERYONE who wanted one.

Warning: LONG reply

“It still seems strange, as the vision from when Michelle touched Phineas’ tomb seemed to imply that the creation of the medallions, the creation of the Avalon, and the hiding of the egg were at least close in time.”

They were chronologically close together. The Great War.
Creation of Medallions happened, as far as we are aware, before the Great War and restrictions in which races were permitted by the Sphinx Leaders to get Medallions, may well have been what sparked the start of the Great War.
The founding of the Avalon took place after the Great War.
Hiding the Phoneix Egg took place after the Great War.
Phineas was heavily involved in the creation of the LA and in the hiding of the Phoenix egg.

“I do wonder why the egg is outside the Avalon, if it’s such a powerful magical artifact. If the egg is so powerful, mysterious, and valuable to need a maze of caverns and a designated guardian (who is supposed to have magical abilities) to keep it safe then why is it so far from any potential help?”

We were not shown any clues as to where the egg was, in the flashback Vision of Michelle’s in this chapter.
As for why it’s kept away from the LA, that is to prevent ANYONE from possibly learning of the Phoenix Egg. Remember, the guarding system for the Phoenix Egg was created by Ravi, and he knew of Jocasta and Wosret going into hiding to fool the Dragons.

“I’m unsure why the dragons were thought to be extinct”

It’s suspected that the Great War ended with both the Sphinxes and the Dragons both going into hiding at the same time. The hiding was done in a way which made it look like both groups had made each other extinct. Neither side knew the other had survived and gone into hiding.

“That seems to be the role of the current Nemean Elders (council? I can’t remember, anyways, they’re kinda in charge of the Avalon now).”

There’s the LA Elders, who were very basically described in Exchanges chapter 3 page 17.
There were no Nemean Elders mentioned when Lorne was talking with Jon in Exchanges chapter 1, page 23. It was just simply the Elders, and the same when Remy was whinging to Lorne about not being allowed to compete in dodge fights in Exchanges chapter 3, page 17.

“Did the Sphinx Elders forbid the making of medallions for dragons (like with the Nemeans?) and basically start the dragons hunting for those with medallions/making medallions? Because they think they deserve to have medallions, too. If the Sphinx Elders said no to the dragons getting medallions, start hunting those with medallions to try and get the medallions to work for them?”

The thought is indeed that like with the Nemeans, the Sphinx Leaders refused the Dragons to have Medallions.
My thought on the start of the Great War is that the Dragons reacted to the refusal by deciding that if ALL Mythicals could not have Medallions, then no-one could have Medallions. I though of that as a possibility to explain why the Dragons were destroying the smiths AND taking the Medallions. It wasn’t so much that they thought they could use Medallions meant for other races, but rather that they simply did not want anyone to have access to those Medallions.

Here are my own speculations as to why the cave of the phoenix egg is outside the Avalon:

The cavern is an extension of a natural place, and the area above it is not a practical location for the Avalon.

The Avalon itself has changed its precise location at least once over the centuries. Its current location was underwater eight hundred years ago, before a portion of the waterfront was filled in to extend the area for building. When the Tobacco Warehouse came available, they apparently snuck the entire community into it without the neighbors noticing.

Incidentally, Jocasta & Wosret were apparently in an exclusive neighborhood that may have been a precursor to the Avalon. How else could Wosret & Phineas get away with standing around on the street in midform?

“The cavern is an extension of a natural place”
Jim says as much in page 1 of chapter 1 of Illumination.

“Incidentally, Jocasta & Wosret were apparently in an exclusive neighborhood that may have been a precursor to the Avalon.”
At the time of the flashback shown in Michelle’s Vision, there was indeed a Mythical community in existence. On page 28 of chapter 2, Phineas mentions The Elders allowing Nemean Lions to stay. So all the elements that would form the Avalons seem to be already in place during the Great War, except for the walls to close everyone in and hide them away.

Eh I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because it’s difficult to stay invested in the comic, even though it has excellent world building, but other than a bit of exposition it doesn’t really feel like much really occurred over these 34 pages. It’s your comic Kory and you can do whatever you want with it but I’m wondering if perhaps instead of following it weekly I should just catch up every month- it might help get me invested in the comic again.

Either way enjoy your time off and we look forward to whenever the comic returns in February or so.

The alt text on this got me. xD
As for the answer; yes. Now, to reboot Michelle.exe and hope the update hasn’t crashed the OS or corrupted any memory blocks. (Okay, I’ll stop now)

“May you live in interesting times.”
Quite the curse that seems to be in literature. I’m reminded of a certain “Folly – the curse.”
Poor James, interesting times indeed, and he strikes me as a guy who’d much rather have his peace and quiet.

Happy new year, and good zeal.
10 years? wow.

I wonder how Michelle is feeling right now. One possibility…

Michelle: The power… THE POWER…! So… so… uncomfortable! Seriously, when I’ve done whatever I need to with this whole freaky legacy of mine, I’m gonna wanna ditch some of it! Or most of it. I feel like I’m about to fly a-freakin’-part! …Please tell me there’s some way to do that! Ditch some and not fly apart, I mean!

Ravi: Well, as I explained to Mister Finn…

Many years later…

Mary: One more push, Michelle… Yes! It’s a girl! And, even more importantly, she’s a sphinx!

Michelle: *pant* *sigh* Yes… yes, I felt the power level drop the moment she took her first breath. As always. …God, I think this might be it… my spine’s stopped seething, my heart doesn’t feel like a furnace, my fingers aren’t tingling… have my eyes stopped glowing??

Mary: Almost. Your pupils look properly dark now, and in a brightly-lit room the rest wouldn’t really show…

Michelle: Great. I don’t really want to have to do this again… I can’t help thinking each time, how much more painful it would be if I couldn’t give birth in fullform… not to mention I’ve already filled your house with kids-

Mary: *smiles, holds up admonishing finger* Don’t mention it, Michelle, dear. I bought into this whole legacy back when I married James, just as the Finn family bought into it when Phineas and company set the whole thing up. So if it falls to you to re-establish the whole sphinxine race for us, we are obviously more than happy for you to do it here. And as for the horde of children… excuse me. *walks to door, opens it enough to stick her head out* Children, your mother is very tired, and your baby sister is still rather messy. Why don’t you go out and play for a while, and I’ll call you in when she’s ready?

Satyr boy: Is she a sphinx, Auntie Mary?

Mary: Yes Tommy, she is a sphinx.

Sphinx girl: Ha! Told you! *pounces Tommy*

Mary: Philomena! Be nice!

Philomena: Yes, Aunt Mary… hahaha told you told you…

Mary: Now, all of you run along. Go and play with Uncle James outside. And I see Uncle Lorne out there too – you have my permission to go and take him out!

Chorus of kids: Yes, Auntie Mary! Yayyyyyyy! *exeunt at speed*

Mary: *sigh* *glows with happiness* “Auntie Mary…” Yes, as for the horde of children, you may add to it as much as you want. We can always extend the place.



Anyway, hope everyone had a happy Christmas, roll on the new year and the new chapter!

Interesting that Greg is absent from this scene you crafted, Greenwood.

In a manner of speaking, he is. Where do you think the “satyr boy” came from? ;)

A comment by Blanche seems to imply that the children take after whatever their same-gendered parent is. If that’s the case, since Blanche is male, and his father is a white stag, then Blanche is a white stag. If Blanche had been female, he’d have taken after his mother instead, and been a Peryton.

Minor bug report Kory.

In the current page footer, it has:
Art and Story © Kory Bing 2006-2015

Shouldn’t it have 2016, for this year’s pages? Both the RQs from the start of this year and all of chapter 2 were drawn during 2016, and chapter 2 was written during 2016.

Reader question: Hey Kory are Jocasta and wosret brother and sister or just good friends or something else.

Hey Greg, why don’t you buy some satyr medallions and
share the fun with some of your relatives?

I would love to see him just burst into the room while his family is having a reunion or something and just start to toss medallions all over the place. I would pay money to see that chaos unfold.

Me too. It just confuses me that his family doesn’t like him cause he’s a satyr and yet it doesn’t seem that they realise that they are also satyr’s in disguise.

Well his family is a bunch of close minded Christian fundamentalists. It would make sense that they wouldn’t like the bastard kid who can transform into something that resembles Satan. Also I’m pretty sure Greg never told them that there is a large possibility that other members of his family are satyrs.

I think there is something wrong with the site.

I’m working on it! :)

Bug report on the updated Chapters/archive page.
There are no links to Kill Them With Kindness, or Reunion.
Both are linked to on the Chapters drop-down menu at the top of pages, though.

I have a question for you about the medallions. How much would a Sphinx Medallion cost on the market? Would they be worthless (except as possible collector pieces) as they would only work for Sphinxes and as far as we know there is only one sphinx blood line currently alive and the only sphinx member of that blood line doesn’t have any children. Although on the other hand would it cost Michell an arm and a wing to buy another Sphinx Medallion if she had children? This is of course assuming that the majority of Sphinx medallions haven’t been destroyed.

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