Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Locales: Tarsus

Tarsus is the mountainous petty kingdom in the northeastern region of Evandar. It borders Dakon-Bar on the south, the kingdom of Ranyth on the east, and the petty Evandari kingdom of Aelethmer on the west. Tarsus is the home of the city of Tor Caldri, known as the White City. Tor Caldri is the ancient site of the ruling high king's palace and the council of the ruling clans of the seven kingdoms. Tor Caldri is one of the oldest cities in the entire kingdom of Evandar.

Tarsus's rule is matrilinal. The current monarch is the nephew of the previous queen, who continues to reside in the royal palace with her husband. They serve as advisors to the present king and stand above the privy council in their status. The ruling family of Tarsus hails from a clan descendant from the hero Wulfgar the Black. He is the founder of clan Morwulfen (Black Wolf) and of the clan Svart-Ulfr (also Black Wolf). The division between clans Morwulfen and Svart-Ulfr came when Wulfgar's legitimate children came into conflict with his illegitimate children. The legitimate descendants became Svart-Ulfr and the illegitimate descendants became Morwulfen.

The Svart-Ulfr are more heavily influenced by their common ancestry with the Kordid then Morwulfen. They hold the throne of Tarsus by force of arms. A tenuous truce was brokered between Morwulfen (who are more closely tied to the original Evandari who lived in the region prior to the Great Flight of the Kordid in the era not long before the Great War of the last Age) and Svart-Ulfr where in Morwulfen's chief is honored as one of the high dukes of the realm. In theory, they could have a claim to the throne of Tarsus as one of the dukes but it would only be accepted if the ruling dynasty died out.

When Askemb ascended to the seat of chief of Morwulfen following the death of his father (under suspicious circumstances), relations between the two clans chilled considerably. Askemb retains his holdings in Tarsus following his capture of Dakon-Bar. The ruling king of Tarsus has yet to decide if he will move to divest Askemb of his holdings in that kingdom. Askemb, when asked, will state he holds a legitimate claim upon the throne of Tarsus. He will state nothing more beyond this.

Within the Svart-Ulfr clan, there is a faction that is pushing for patrilinial rule. They are descendants of a branch of the ruling family that is viewed with some suspicion because of their cordial ties with clan Morwulfen. Their push for patrilinial rule is justified by the fact that Morwulfen has ruled in this fashion since the last age and this was supposedly the way the rulers of the last Age handled such matters, thus the argument is that it is what Wulfgar would have recognized. The present king of Tarsus is childless and has made no statements on the matter, leaving many to guess what his position is.

The Svart-Ulfr clan is tied to the Talisid clan that had been rulers of Dakon-Bar until their overthrow by Askemb of Morwulfen. The ties are of indirect kinship and intermarrying by highly placed families in both clans. Erian of Talisid, the High King of Evandar that was elected by the council of nine and true born king of Dakon-Bar, fostered with the previous king of Tarsus. From this came a fast friendship with the prince who was then forced into exile at the beginning of the war with the Kordid as they stormed into Evandar by way of eastern Tarsus and the no-man's land of the peaks of the Dragon's Spine, the mountain range that forms the border between Evandar and Ranyth.

The colors of Svart-Ulfr crimson and ash grey. The standard bears two spears crossed with their points upward on a field of crimson. This is in honor of Wulfgar's legendary prowess with this weapon. The colors of Morwulfen are black and gold. The standard bears a black wolf's head upon a gold field. The wolf is for Wulfgar and the gold reflects Morwulfen's continued stance that they are the legitimate claimants to the throne of Tarsus. Wulfgar the Black's personal standard was a field of gold and crimson divided upon the right and left. Upon that field, there was a black wolf's head and crossed spears behind it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On writing with a soundtrack. (Aka: Sources of Inspiration)

Some of my best writing, I have done while listening to music. If you take a look at one of my writing playlists on Youtube, you can find that I draw a lot of inspiration from very cinematic music. It has been said that listening to Mozart helps one to concentrate and be productive in the mental arena. Honestly, I don't think it has to be Mozart, but I think that music does help 'grease the wheels' and make it easier to be creative.

It is like surrounding yourself with artwork that inspires you, regardless of any talent you might have for the medium you are drawn to (ie. Photography, painting, etc.). The artwork or music serves as a starting point for the growth of your ideas. It is possible to argue the same about what we read. (Though there you must be careful to maintain your own perspective upon matters.)

The creative process is, in some respects, like growing a crystal. Can it occur on its own at any place with out external influence? Yes, as well as being begotten by earlier work we have done. (Think of this as crystals growing upon other crystals.) In many cases, however, our work is started by the germ of an idea. This is the 'base' from which our crystalline structures develop.

It is important to note that the 'base' for crystals will be different with respect to what type of crystal develops. Emerald is found in the same location as beryl (being a related stone). It is also found where there is calcite and pegmite. In terms of our storycraft, our crystal may be a fantasy story. It may develop from our reading fantasy, including genres of fantasy that don't exactly match our work (high fantasy influencing urban fantasy, for example). This could be described as an emerald growing upon beryl.

It could also arise from listening to music that inspires you or other 'unrelated' sources of inspiration. Our proverbial emerald growing upon calcite. And our story could arise from previous work we have written, though not in the same genre. The proverbial emerald growing upon pegmite. Lastly, our story could develop from ideas that were inspired by work we had written previously in the same genre. This would be our fictional emerald growing upon another fictional emerald.

Some people will argue that the differences in how our 'emerald' is grown makes huge differences in the work we produce. This type of arrogance is an insult to other creative minds and spits upon their work. The differences in our 'emerald' come from what we do with it. The raw stuff of stories is the fruit of inspiration and hard work. This 'raw material' is the emerald. Our creation of the story (or any other form of art, honestly) is our mining that emerald. The editing process is the cutting and polishing of the stone.

All parts of the process are labor intensive. When mining our emeralds, it is good to get help in the process. This is where sources of inspiration come into play. They are not only the matrix from which the emerald emerges but also the tools that we use to free it from said matrix. It is my opinion that the hardest part is the beginning, is finding that emerald. After that it is just a matter of persistence and refinement.

Embrace your sources of inspiration. Create your writing soundtrack and surround yourself with art that fills your mind with ideas. Disregard the opinions of people who tell you that your choices are not tasteful or otherwise criticize your mining technique. They wouldn't recognize that emerald you are looking for and shaping. Most people don't recognize the value of our work until it is finished, sadly, and have a great deal of assumptions about the labor that goes into it.

Don't let their assumptions and attitudes stop you. With patience and dogged determination, you can craft something wonderful out of just about anything you find in your path. That's the beauty of being an artist (and authors are artists too). Go out there and be your gloriously creative, brilliant self. The world needs your emeralds.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ashur's Will

Yaeli looked into the courtyard where Zalaz and Sorenan circled Marcos. It had been three weeks. The pair had mercilessly drilled sword forms and techniques into Marcos's head. To the surprise of both warriors, Marcos took their lessons quickly and began to show signs of surpassing them. They had moved to hand to hand combat and short blades when it became apparent that somehow, Marcos had acquired a foot soldier's skill with long blades. Now, the trio were facing each other with practice knives that Zalaz had acquired from somewhere.

The blunted blades gleamed in the light as the mercenary and the general moved to their attack upon the priest-king. Zalaz's other concubines watched the education of the priest-king with some interest. A few had comments that were uncharitable about Marcos's skill and build. Yaeli bitterly scolded them and reminded them that Marcos had the right to demand their lives for such blather. It seemed to make the comments stop but Yaeli was still irritated with the behavior of her companions. Standing at the upper terrace of the building and looking down into the courtyard, Yaeli was joined by one of the youngest of the trio who served with her. Where the other two had muttered about Marcos's lack of a warrior's body, Ishia said only that Ashur would provide.

Ishia was the daughter of a family that worshipped the desert god. Where Yaeli had doubts about the stern, distant god of the storms, Ishia simply believed that Ashur would provide in all things. Yaeli suspected it was due to the young woman being raised in the desert and having her very existence dependent upon what kindness Ashur would send upon his people. The pair watched as Zalaz's blade passed over Marcos's right shoulder when the priest-king dropped to his knee. Sorenan's hand grasped for Marcos's left shoulder. Then, to the amazement of everyone, Marcos wrapped his arms around Sorenan's waist and stood. As he did so, he heaved the sandy haired man over his shoulder.

Sorenan hit the hard ground with a noise of pain. Marcos turned quickly on his feet and kicked Sorenan's knife away as he brought his left arm hard across Zalaz's neck. The general stumbled back, surprised by Marcos's movements and found the priest-king continuing forward. Marcos's blunted knife pressed hard against Zalaz's stomach as he gripped the general's knife hand. The general's eyes at first were wide with surprise and then squinted against the light to peer into Marcos's face in curiosity. Sorenan came to his feet, his lower lip bleeding from where he cut it on a tooth at his impact. Moving forward to surprise Marcos, the mercenary watched as Marcos kicked Zalaz's feet out from beneath him and then dropped to a knee as Sorenan swung at him.

Marcos placed his knife briefly at Zalaz's neck, simulating slitting his throat before turning and pressing his knife against Sorenan's stomach. The entire time, Marcos's expression held an eerie quality of calm. He did not look as though he was calculating what to do next or unsure of himself. It was a dramatic change from the last three weeks. This, coupled with the unprecidented strength in Marcos's movements, strength that Zalaz was sure Marcos did not have, made Sorenan back up a pace with his hands raised. Zalaz slowly got to his feet as Marcos looked down at the knife in his hand.

"What in the black sands was that?" Sorenan said, confusion mixing with something that Zalaz hadn't heard before, fear. Marcos stood and noted how Zalaz stepped back a pace from him. Marcos looked over at Sorenan, who was watching him with the same intensity and caution that the general had.

"That was Ashur," Zalaz said, noticing how Marcos's expression had moved from the eerie calm to a mixture of sheepish discomfort and embarrassment. "I thought it was just a legend," Zalaz said, "I thought that it was just a story that Ashur could reach through his sword-bearer and take over their body. It seems I was wrong."

"Ashur?" Sorenan said, sounding distinctly uncomfortable.

"Ashur," Marcos said, "I felt his strength through me and his presence within. It ... I was reminded how small I am compared to the desert. It was as though I was being squeezed into a small box. Then, I knew nothing until Ashur let me go. Then I was standing holding this knife and you two were as you are. Judging from your faces, it was adequate."

Zalaz gave a bark of humorless laughter. "I believe my work is done with you, my lord," Zalaz said, "He has given you arms and a means to weild them. All that is left is to plan what to do. And if what just happened was any indication of what is to come, I suspect that Ashur will have much to say."

On the terrace, Ishia looked over at Yaeli, her dark face and eyes shining with hope. "Ashur is among us," she said, "All shall be well." Yaelia looked down at the men in the courtyard uneasily.

"They'll be hungry and needing baths. Let's get ready," the older woman said, turning to walk in to the room behind them.

Flora et Fauna: Silver Thorn

The plant known as silver thorn looks much like a common thistle. Its growth and development are parallel to that of thistle as well. The difference between silver thorn and thistle is that the entire silver thorn plant appears to be pale green/silver. The leaves are covered with downy hair and the blossoms are white. The roots of silver thorn are a paralytic toxin. The sap of the plant causes tingling and numbness when it comes into contact with the skin. If consumed, it acts as a weak paralytic toxin, making the digestive system temporarily cease processing food. The symptoms of poisoning by consumption of silver thorn sap are identical to the disorder known as gastroparesis.

The crushed root of silver thorn, when steeped in water, releases its toxin into the infusion. This is then applied to weapons. Wounded with a weapon coated with this substance, one can lose the use of the limb affected as the toxin will spread from the injury. If the crushed root of silver thorn is applied directly to the weapon, the toxin's effect will be faster. Injuries with a treated weapon near the head, neck, or spine will result in total paralysis as the toxin effects the central nervous system.

The blossoms of silver thorn are pure white and have the same curious quality of dog violet, a sweet scent that then seemingly vanishes due to the temporary disabling of the oralfactory nerves. A tincture of silver thorn blossoms is used by those who wish to mask their scent. In small doses, this tincture has no negative effect upon the user. Large doses, repeated in a small period of time, results in the user losing sensation in the areas where the tincture is applied.

There is no antidote to silver thorn. The seeds are nontoxic and make up a significant portion of the diet of songbirds, like thistle.