Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Locales: Swavia

The kingdom of Swavia is the smallest of the Seven Kingdoms of Evandar. Irregularly shaped, the borders of Swavia follow the Shattered Mountains, bordering Aelethmer where the range begins. Surrounded by the mountain range, the hilly lowlands of the kingdom are places of mediocre quality farming. Swavia is not a very populous kingdom. It does, however, have a higher number of thralls per citizen ratio. This is because of Swavia's mining industry.

Slaves are predominately the source of labor in the mines. Swavia does not have a the same population of foresters within its borders as neighboring countries, such as Dakon-Bar (which lies to the north-east) or Moesia (which is south of Dakon-Bar and east of Swavia.) This is partly due to the fact that the forests of Swavia are not as dense of these kingdoms. It is also due to the policy that criminals are enslaved. The high slavery rate of Swavia is something that other kingdoms within Evandar are of mixed feelings on. Under the reign of Erian Talasid, prior to the incursion of the Cordid or the war with Askemb the Usurper, Swavia was a place that was tolerated due to treaties by kingdoms with low slavery rates. Tarsus and Dakon-Bar, with the lowest slavery rates, were consistently at opposition with Swavia in most matters during this period. 

The kingdom of Gwohawr, which wraps about the southernmost border of Swavia up to meet Galeryn, has the second highest rate of slavery, followed by Moesia, and has been Swavia's most staunch supporters. Swavia's metals trade and precious jewels trade makes the upper class very wealthy and the lower classes a bit more well off than those of the neighboring kingdoms. Swavia is divided by the Shadowmer river that cuts from Galeryn along a northeast to southwest track into Ackmere before returning through southernmost Swavia and running into Gwohawr. The Shadowmere river is the largest river in the western kingdoms of Evandar.

Along its banks and in its floodplains are prosperous towns, rich farmlands, and a few large cities. This region is in many ways the bread basket of Swavia. The prices for grain in Swavia are shockingly high compared to other regions due to the poor growing conditions there. The only kingdom that comes close in its prices for grain is the mountainous kingdom of Tarsus in the northeast of the Seven Kingdoms.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Julara's Mercy, Ashur's Wrath

Mina and Marcos were surprised when no forces from Temna arrive a month later. Zalaz commented that Temna's laziness was Dacia's advantage when the topic came up for discussion. Sorenan gathered his men and brooded. Sitting with his battle companions, Sorenan watched the inn's common room with no apparent emotion on his face. At his left side hung the second sword of Ashur. He thought about the commotion when it was discovered with the first in the sanctuary of Ashur.

Priests and common men alike regarded Sorenan with a mixture of fear and suspicion. He wasn't terribly surprised by this reception. Since he had come out of the north, the blond haired man was viewed with askance by the dark haired people of the south. It was argued that his skin was too white and that his strange eyes were signs that he was a deamon walking in the form of a man. It disappointed him when he heard these comments from some of the priests in the city. Sorenan had, at one point, hoped that they were as well educated as Marcos.

Now, however, that disappointment was turning to disgust as he grew impatient with the entire situation. As Marcos and Zalaz discussed the situation a few hours earlier, Sorenan withheld comment. A part of him wanted to suggest that they march on Temna now that the majority of their forces were present. Some still voice within, a voice that was new and reminded Sorenan of the whisper of the wind, told him to keep silence. Thus, Sorenan merely glared at the map and tried to will some change in the situation. When they left the General's quarters within the temple complex, Sorenan discovered no change.

When his men looked to him for any sort of news at the inn, Sorenan shook his head. They began playing at dice again in their boredom. He knew that his companions were as impatient for the waiting to end as he was. This was proving as tedious as the journey to the northern reaches of the empire but three months ago. "Someone is looking for you," Sorenan's right hand man said. A great bull of a man, Theon was true to the stereotype of being a quiet man with an unpredictable temper. It was with some surprise that Theon came to be Sorenan's most trusted companion. When the others began commenting on Sorenan's sightings with Mina, Theon said nothing.

When news that Sorenan was to be a sword-bearer of Ashur, Theon simply grunted and continued with his meal. It was when Sorenan was alone with him that Theon spoke. What the big man said left Sorenan uncomfortable. He was hoping for old fashioned combat to distract him from the statement but it rang in his head. "Julara's mercy comes with Ashur's wrath. Julara's wrath follows after. And then there is devastation," Theon said. It was something that made Sorenan uneasy.

Bearing the sword of Ashur's wrath, Sorenan thought that the will of the gods was completed and he'd be left to do his job. Now, he questioned if Julara herself was going to lay a claim upon him. Sorenan wasn't a religious man. Until Ashur appeared at the throne room's antechamber, Sorenan told himself that the gods weren't real. He told himself that Mina and Marcos were simply doing their jobs. Then Ashur appeared. Ashur spoke to him. Now, Sorenan's life seemed to have turned upside down.

Sitting, thinking uncomfortable thought, Sorenan watched as the veiled woman made her way to them. Sorenan looked at the white veils and presumed that Mina had sent one of the Silent Sisters with a message. The mercenaries stood and bowed to the Sister. She made a gesture of benediction over his men as they sat. Sorenan remained standing. The Sister made a beckoning gesture. Sorenan walked after her, curious what Mina wanted in the midst of her own preparations for war.

They walked to a house near the temple complex. The Sister lead him through the first of the two room. She then walked to a door set in the wall of the room. When she opened it, Sorenan's expression turned to one of confusion. A passage he had never seen ran from the door into some dark place. The Sister took up a lamp that was sitting in a niche by the door. Holding it before herself, she walked down the corridor.

Dimly through the illuminated veils, Sorenan saw a face he thought was familiar. He resisted the urge to ask questions, knowing that the Sister's vow of silence was one that prevented her even from speaking to the high priestess of Julara herself. The passage twisted and turned, ever moving downward. The air gradually turned cool and damp as they passed beneath the buildings above. Soon they came to another door. On the other side of it, Sorenan heard agonized screaming. His stomach clenched as a fear for Mina and Marcos's safety hit him.

He set his hand upon the hilt of the sword as the Sister turned to face him. She turned away before Sorenan could clearly see who she was, though the light made it tantalizingly close to visible. As the door swung open, Sorenan found himself entering into a dungeon chamber. A man, who clearly was not Marcos, lay stretched upon a rack, screaming in pain. Sorenan looked at the man and attempted to figure out where he had seen the face before.

"Zafar is a traitor," Mina's voice came from beneath the veils. "He has given over Midthar to Temna." Sorenan looked at the councilman. As he peered closely at the tortured man, Sorenan recognized the face despite its egregious wounds. "His punishment is not complete. We still have yet to learn what he has told Temna of our defenses, if anything at all," she said in a tone that was unfamiliar to Sorenan and served to heighten his discomfort with Theon's earlier statement,

"Torture is not a reliable method of getting information," Sorenan said. Mina looked over at him from beneath her white veils. "Give him clothes, food, and rest. Treat him as a man," he continued, "Give him the promise of clemency and he will answer your questions. This is unnecessary." He felt Mina's displeasure like a subtle chill in the air.

"This is clemency," Mina answered in that alien tone, "He would have been fed to Ashur's eagles alive. It is the punishment for treason." Sorenan thought about the enormous birds and the way they tore apart goats in the fields to the north. He shuddered. "I thought perhaps you would bring him to see reason," Mina said, turning her gaze back to the man in agony before her.

"At least take him off the rack," Sorenan said, unable to put aside the unease he felt. He was alright with killing men. He was even good at it. But the sight of a man, woman, or beast tortured made Sorenan feel sick down deep inside. It struck him as profoundly cruel. The idea that torture was mercy made his blood run cold. The fact that Mina, one who is known for her kindness to the unfortunate, said it in that queer tone made him feel the beginnings of fear.

Mina looked over at him. "Ashur's first sword-bearer passed judgment upon this man," she said, "Yet his second would ease his justly earned misery. Your compassion will lead to the ending of many lives if it stays your hand when it is time to strike." Sorenan stared at Mina in mute shock. Where she had previously praised his compassion and told him it was admirable in a man of his line of work, this reply was entirely outside of her usual behaviors.

"Your Ladyship, why do you decry my compassion when you have praised it so much of late?" Sorenan asked, moving into a tone of formality as he struggled to make sense of the situation.

"My daughter's heart is soft beneath the iron. She would have peace reign through the land," Mina replied eerily, "You have been her shield. It is time to be Ashur's sword."

"Lady...?" he started as she walked and set the lamp upon a table where the torturer's implements sat idle. Mina lifter her veil. Sorenan gasped at the sight that met his eyes. Where Mina's were supposed to be green, they were changed to a dark, dark brown. Mina's pale skin had deepened in shade until it was the olive of the laborers in the fields.

"Speak to the prisoner," Julara said, "A servant shall be sent in an hour. His bindings remain, for he does not have my favor." She turned and walked out the second door of the chamber. As she vanished down the corridor, Sorenan shuddered. He had no choice now. The gods were wholly real and have spoken to him. As Sorenan turned to Zafar, he tried to will the terror flooding his veins away.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Flora et Fauna: Desert Eagles

This week's discussion of the living creatures of Evandar takes us away from the Seven Kingdoms into the desert known as the Waste by those living East of it and as the Sands of Elian or Ashur's Realm by those who live within it. Within the desert, there lives a special breed of eagles. Physically, they strongly resemble the Harpy Eagle of our world. Unlike the Harpy Eagle, the Desert Eagle resides in a place that is not as lush with life. The Desert Eagle is one of the surviving species of the desertification of the Waste following the cataclysms that came from the magical combat between the deamons and the elves.

Adapting to the conditions of the Waste, the Desert Eagle has pale colored plumage. The dorsal plumage is a sandy color with dark flecks. The ventral plumage is white. The feet of the Desert Eagle are a yellow color with white talons. The head of the Desert Eagle is entirely of the sandy color of the back and upper wings. The beak of this bird is a yellow that is a little lighter than that of the feet. The Desert Eagle has eyes that are an amber color that is close to the same shade of fresh clover honey.

Female Desert Eagles have a slightly smaller wingspan than that of the males. A male has an average wingspan of seven feet wide. Females have an average wingspan of six and a half feet wide. The body of the bird ranges between two and a half feet to three feet long. Females average a weight of nine pounds and the average weight for males is thirteen pounds. There have been Desert Eagles that weigh more and are slightly larger than the average size. Most of the Desert Eagles that are of the larger sizes have been domesticated. The largest Desert Eagle weighs twenty two pounds and is kept by the priests of Ashur in Dacia.

Desert Eagle chicks are a dark grey color with black beaks and talons. They grow lighter with maturity. The nestlings are unusually quiet. They only make noise when the parents are near. Desert Eagles are also unusual in the fact that they have surprisingly well developed senses of smell. If a nest has been disturbed, the parents will cannibalize the young and then move to another nest. Desert Eagles have two broods. Most broods will have two young, though there have been recorded incidents of three to four eggs hatched in the nest. The parent eagles take turns caring for the young. Desert Eagles mate for life. There are tales of eagles avenging their deceased mates, but these are predominantly folk lore. The instances where this have happened occurred when one mate is attacked while in the presence of the other.

The call of an adult Desert Eagle when hunting is a shrill scream. Some have said that the scream of a Desert Eagle sounds like the scream of a man. Their calls when not hunting ranges from something akin to a raven's 'quork' to a wispy, wailing cry. Desert Eagles are quiet most of the time, only giving the hunting scream when they sight prey. When they are brooding and raising nestlings, the eagles give quieter calls, the loudest of which is a wailing cry that is a warning of danger to their mates. Nestlings give similar cries to those of adult Desert Eagles, though they can not accomplish the volume of the adult. Nestlings mature over the course of four months. Adults are driven away by their parents from the nest. There are occasions where parents have killed their adult young in the process of driving them away.

The primary places where Desert Eagles hunt are at the river valleys that wind through the desert and about oases. Their range, however, takes them into the desert where they hunt prey and scavenge the fallen. Desert Eagles are not strictly predators but also serve as the areal scavengers of the desert, a role filled in our world by vultures and buzzards.

Domesticated Desert Eagles are trained for hunting. They are also trained as weapons of war. Desert Eagles are trained to land upon the enemy and tear flesh out of them before flying off. The targets they are trained for most often are the necks and faces of the opponent. There have been occasions of a trained Desert Eagle turning on its master. These incidents are viewed as Ashur's will turning against the master. Such eagles are permitted to fly off into the wild. Occasionally, they will linger near where said master had trained them. These Desert Eagles can be captured and retrained, though it is with some difficulty.

The great work.

If you have been around the occult community for a while, you'll find them throwing around the terms 'The Great Work'. I became charmed with that expression when I first encountered it decades ago. In this case, what 'the great work' is referring to is not arcane enlightenment. I use it to speak of my writing. It has been a driving force in my life for twenty years, if not longer. As a child, I loved books and wanted to emulate the authors in my life. (It was an enormous privilege to grow up in a family with two authors in the generations before me that were still living during my formative years. I will always be thankful for that.)

When I was young, writing was a romantic thing. While some people dreamed of making lots of money with a big publishing contract, I never did. For me, I was enthralled by the idea of creating worlds and lives separate from my own. I was also in love with language. Some days, I wish that my romance with language included a bit more emphasis upon Spanish. (Those classes were horribly difficult at college.) But I dove into learning about the history and development of the English language with utter joy. I can honestly say that I was crushed when I learned that where I attended college dropped the coursework in Anglo-Saxon the year before I first enrolled. It was part of the reason why I picked Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Even though my attempts to learn the roots of the English language have been challenged over the years by circumstantial difficulties, it did not stop me from embracing the craft of writing. When I wasn't learning how to wield the language like a scalpel (I'm not there yet, but it is a goal of mine.), I was practicing writing in different genres and formats. The process of learning where my strengths lie was difficult and painful at times. There are some forms of writing I simply am horrible at it. Writing news articles, for example, is something I was so bad at that the campus newspaper asked me to stop. It hurt and I was somewhat angry, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't master that format.

But my passion has always been for fiction. I dabbled in poetry as a hobby for several years. That hobby, however, always came second to working on writing stories. I would be remiss in not telling you how much of a thrill it is to see the way a work of fiction comes together on the page. Even my rough drafts, which are not prettiest part of writing, I have a deep love for them. Revision is still hard work. Especially when you are talking about over 50k words and hundreds of pages of text.But it is a labor of love.

I wish I could put into words how much joy I have when I encounter other authors who share the same love for the craft of writing. It doesn't matter what genre or format they write in. These people who are always looking to learn more about their art form and exude pure enthusiasm when they talk about it make me supremely happy because they are my kind of people. They understand the excitement I feel when I am trying out a new technique or the giddy rush of when I encounter something exceptionally well written.

A friend of mine shared a meme with me. I am going to post it here, because it is so delightful I feel that everyone must see it.

Have a beautiful day, hug the weirdos around you, and follow your passions.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Food of Evandar: Meat Pies

In my world, I see people having a wide range of foods. Each culture has their own specialties and there are delicacies that can be exotic or disgusting to our palate. I get my ideas for the cusine of this world from the wide variety of foods that can be found in our world. Some of them are drawn from historical recipes and some come from the recipes that I adapt. A few of them are also based in ones that I have made myself. I try to note what makes the difference between the fantasy world's recipes and the food from our world.

On a weekly basis, I will be posting a recipe that would match something from my fantasy world. These recipes may include links to other related recipes that can be found on the internet.

Meat pies are hand held pocket pies filled with a savory meat mixture. Different regions of Evandar have different varieties within them. The recipe that I am presenting today would be typical of what you would find in Dakon-Bar. (Dragonwood Forest is part of this region.) The abundance of deer is what gives this meat pie its filling. In Evandar, the meat would be minced very fine before cooking. Obviously, we can have ours ground. It makes for less labor.

If you want an 'accurate' version and you decide to mince your venison prior to cooking, consider using two chef knives held together for mincing the meat. It is a little tricky to handle but it doubles your cutting surfaces and allows you to get it done in about half the time you would be doing with a single knife. Another option is to toss your venison into a food processor. Process it until the pieces are less than 1/4 inch in size. Take care not to over process it and make a paste out of your meat.

Brown 1/4 pound of minced venison in a heavy skillet with 2 tbsp of oil, 1/4 cup of diced sweet onion, and 2 ribs of celery, chopped fine. In a separate pan, boil 2 sweet potatoes, skinned and diced, until they can be pierced with a tooth pick. Drain the water off of the sweet potatoes except for a 1/4 cup.  Mash the sweet potatoes with garlic, butter, salt, and pepper to taste.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of milk. You should get a dough that is somewhat sticky but still easy to handle. Alternatively, you can prepare 2 cups of biscuit mix as per directions. Roll out your dough and with a large glass or a biscuit cutter, cut out 2 dozen rounds.

Mix the venison mixture with the sweet potatoes. Spoon a generous amount into the center of a dozen biscuit rounds. Place another biscuit round on top and press the edges together with a fork. Prick the center of the top biscuit round three times with a fork.

Carefully place your biscuit rounds on a greased cookie sheet. (You can line the cookie sheet with baking parchment instead of greasing the cookie sheet.) Bake at 350o until biscuits are golden brown. Serve warm with broth.

If you are looking for more Earthly fare, try this British Meat Pies recipe which inspired this one. Another variation that can be used in rounds of bread dough crimped together with a slit in the top to let the steam out. Bake this version at 350o until golden brown.

All temperatures given are in Fahrenheit.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

An idea, but I'm not sure how to use it.

I was washing dishes and getting ready to make dinner when this went through my mind. I don't know which of the next books it will be used in, but I am definitely going to be using this.
~*~*~*~*~*~

"We need not trouble ourselves over women," Askemb scoffed, "They are weak creatures that follow the wind's will."

Axeron turned his eerie gaze upon the High King of Evandar. "The wise fear the daughters of men. The sons of men are mighty in battle, but the daughters are feared by all," he warned.

Askemb made a dismissive gesture as he reached for his cup. "In ages passed, perhaps," he said, picking up the cup and putting it to his lips. He was in the midst of his drink when Axeron replied.

"Many may have forgotten how to weave upon the loom of bones, with men's entrails for warp and weft. Many may no longer weight the warp with the heads of their foes, use swords for shuttles, or spears as beaters. But there are those who do. You would be wise to fear them, oh king of men," the deamon prince said, "For it is women who take the first portion of the ancestor's sacrifice. It is women who bleed and yet do not die. It is women who tread the road to the gates of life and death. In her fury, a 'mere' woman may slay a man twice her size, even if he is her lover. Underestimate them and they will bring your death on their white hands."

Serial Story: Dacia

Here's all the links to the story set in Dacia. I will update this post with future links as the next installments go live.

Part I: Abraxas & Soreanan

Part II: Sorenan & Mina

Part III: The Sons of Omourath

Part IV: The General Zalaz

Part V: The High Council of Dacia

Part VI: Of Lions and Eagles

Part VII: Ashur's Will

Part IIX: Shadows of the Storm

Part IX: Julara's Mercy, Ashur's Wrath

Part X: The Confession of Zafar the Betrayer

Part XI: On the banks of Is

Part XII: False Dawn

Part IXX: Desert's Edge

Part XX: The Road to Zard Kuh (Part I)

Part XX I: The Road to Zard Kuh (Part II)

Part XX II: The Road to Zard Kuh (Part III)

Part XX III: Floods in the Desert

Part XX IV: The Blood of Kings and Paupers

Part XX V: Lady of the North Ascends

Part XX VI: Departure

Locales: Ackmere

Ackmere is the south-westerly kingdom of Evandar's seven that borders Swavia and Aelethemer to the north, Moesia to the east, and the region known as the Darklands to the south. On the western side of Ackmere are the grasslands that lead to the desert known as the Waste. Where the grasslands north of Ackmere are claimed as part of Aelethmer's domain, the ones on the border of Ackmere are not claimed as part of that kingdom but rather reserved for the people who were ancestrally displaced from the Darklands during the Great War of the last Age. Officially, these people are free and not tied to any kingdom. In practice, however, they align with Ackmere. They, however, are not part of the seven kingdoms that make up the greater kingdom of Evandar.

In the north of Ackmere, where the pinnacle of the boundary meets Aelethmer, the foothills of the Shattered Mountains roll. There is a region of six lakes that are heavily sheltered by the hills from the bitter winters of the north. These lakes are known as the tears of Roen, for local folklore states they were formed by her tears as she walked the world and saw the evil Morguthu brought. Around these lakes, there are vineyards. This is where Ackmere's wine production predominantly happens. The wines of Ackmere are considered to be almost as good as those of Aelethmer.

The mountains of the Shattered Mountains range march through the eastern side of Ackmere. They divide the kingdom into two regions. The western side of Ackemer is approximately two thirds of the kingdom. The western region with its hills are known for the sheep and goats that reside there. The villages and towns of western Ackmere are predominantly places where fabric is fashioned and traded. In the city of Crookdown, the largest center of fabric trade of the seven kingdoms is located. Exotic fabric, such as silk from the distant lands of Pannonia in across the sea, first come into the kingdom here. While Ackmere is not favored with ports, it is part of a great trading route that moves through the lands about the great sea.

Eastern Ackmere is a place where timber is traded. The trees of the southernmost part of the kingdom are rare, for they have grown in the bogs that reach into the realm known as the Darklands. The bog wood is reputed to possess magical powers. It is also extremely durable and resistant to rot. There are also orchards in eastern Ackmere that are famed for their fruit. The plums of eastern Ackmere are fashioned into a wine that is popular through out the seven kingdoms for its sweetness. Eastern Ackmere is considered to be the gateway to the inner kingdoms. The trade routes through the Shattered Mountains are well policed with a dedicated force that answers to the king.

The monarchy of Ackmere is a matrilineal one. The rule of the kingdom is handed down from mother to daughter. The queens of Ackmere have an established reputation as ruthless and devious enemies of their foes. The sitting queen is living up to her reputation with her merciless rule over her lands. Malcontents are found out and punished when they speak out against the queen. The queen is also known for the fact that she has ridden out into battle, leading her troops personally. The king of Ackmere is generally more of a consort figure with substantially less power, though in theory he is the queen's equal.

In the entire history of Ackmere, there has only been one known battle between the queen and her king. This battle has been remembered as a bloody civil war between west and east Ackmere. The conclusion of the civil war brought a considerable reduction to the king's power. Indeed, that king was imprisoned by the queen and died under suspicious circumstances.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Shadows of the Storm

Three weeks had passed since Zalaz's call for all men of age to take up arms. Travelers on the roads through Dacia found themselves in the company of armed men, all moving towards the west. The first of the legions arrived and set up an encampment before the village that called itself a city, Asser. An hour away from Dacia, Asser was unassuming for all the village's claims of greatness. Their deep wells and rich vinyards were the only thing truly of note about Asser. Now, however, those wells were busy at all hours of the day and the grapes were untended upon the vine because the servants were learning the craft of war.



Zalaz rode through Asser with Sorenan at his side. The pair were a strange sight. Zalaz with his white light armor and clothes seemed to gleam brilliantly in the weak light of dawn. Sorenan wore black. Zalaz's black hair was bound up in a braid that bounced against his back as he rode his bay horse along the streets where as Sorenan's tawny gold hair was free and teased by the wind. The horse he rode was as black as the dead of night and restless. The stallion tossed his mane frequently and strained against Sorenan's control, wanting to move at a brisker pace than the walk he was forced into.



People from the village watched them move towards the encampment with some curiosity and some dread. The young women who had lost their sweethearts to glory's call watched with bitterness. The children followed in their wake excitedly, to the dismay of their mothers. They were nearly to the edge of the village when a boy darted out from between the brick houses and almost under Sorenan's mount. As the child's mother pulled him back with a cry of alarm, Sorenan reined in the horse hard. The black horse reared and the child screamed. Hooves crashed to the earth moments after the boy was pulled back. Sorenan looked down at the lad, who stared up at him with awe and fear.



"Stay back if you would live to be a man," Sorenan said. The boy nodded as his mother clutched him to her breast. She stared at Sorenan as though he was some sort of monster. Sorenan scowled and looked forward. As he rode forward and caught up to Zalaz, he shook his head with disgust. "They would declare me a demon," Sorenan said bitterly, "They whisper that I am a monster." Zalaz looked over at him with an inquistive expression. "I care because they would use it as justification against them," Sorenan explained.



Zalaz nodded. They rode in silence the short distance to the encampment. Though the men assembled were within their own lands, Zalaz noted with approval that a watch had been set. The guard stepped forward to challenge them. He then saw the sash about Zalaz's waist. The younger man bowed deeply as he stepped aside. Zalaz frowned at the sight of how poorly the guard's armor fit him. They rode deeper through the tents until they reached the pavillion of the commander.



Someone had noted Zalaz's approach and word had reached the commander that the Lord High General had come to them. Thus, when Zalaz and Sorenan emerged into the open space at the center of the encampment where the commander's pavilion stood, that man was waiting for them dressed in his armor. With a white breastplate and brown pauldrons, the stocky commander seemed to have rushed to put his too clean armor on. Zalaz inwardly scoffed at how the commander's clothes beneath the armor looked rumpled, as though they had been hastily put on. He suspected that within the pavilion, the commander's woman from the night before was rushing to dress herself and attempting to determine what exactly she should do.



"What news is there from the west?" Zalaz said to the commander. The man before him swallowed anxiously, never having anticipated that he would actually speak with the Lord High General himself. Zalaz waited, restraining a dry remark about how words would have been a more effective mode of communication rather than staring at him. The commander looked over at Sorenan with some discomfort. "Well," Zalaz said, "What do your riders know? I presume they have returned already."



Starting slightly with surprise at Zalaz's words, the commander turned his gaze to the general. "They returned last night. The cities of Kist and Levanth are fully evacuated. Midthar has yet to begin their evacuation. They insist there is no threat and the summons of their men an attempt to grab power," he said, dreading Zalaz's response. Zalaz looked at the commander with his loose right pauldron, waiting for any additional details to be mentioned. "The guard of Midthar have been set against your men," the discomforted man continued, sounding apologetic, "The messengers returned with warning that Midthar would repel any who come for her people. They deny that Temna has turned against us."



"So be it," Zalaz said, "We will leave them to their fate. However, if word comes that Midthar needs aid, we must be ready to march. It may be the most distant city of the empire but it will be the first that will be assaulted. Clearly Zafar has forgotten our discussion." A disturbance at the western edge of the encampment caught the general's attention even as a runner came from there.



"Riders," the man gasped as he reached the commander, "We can't tell who they are." The commander looked at Zalaz, whose sharp eyes could see the wave of activity move through the encampment. Men looked to their weapons. Some began to move towards the edge of the encampment as others looked to their leaders for orders.



"How many?" Zalaz demanded before the commander could speak.



"It is a small party. We think twelve. The others are watching them. Olthos should be coming next with more information," the messenger said. The commander started to say something when Zalaz cut him off again.



"Return to your watch. Look if there is another party behind them," Zalaz said, "Send word as soon as you sight any others in their wake or if they come bearing the standard of Temna. Black field with a gold spear peircing a red sun." The guard nodded briskly, saluted Zalaz and then his commander before turning to race back to his post. Zalaz looked at the commander. "Keep arms at the ready," Zalaz said, "No one moves until I give word. These may be friends of Dacia. Or they may be a scouting party of the enemy. When they reach the encampment's edge, bring them to me."



Zalaz dismounted. Sorenan followed in his wake. A footsoldier took the reins of both horses. Where the commander looked untried and unsteady, the footsoldier bore the mark of a seasoned fighter. His scars and cool demeanor at the prospect of the enemy bearing down on them, compared to how the commander flushed and his lieutenants paled, sat well with Sorenan. Sorenan decided if he couldn't have Zalaz at his back, the man holding their horses may be a good choice compared to the ones who would insist on the 'honor' of defending Ashur's sword-bearer.



Zalaz motioned the commander with him as he entered into the pavilion. One of the commander's subordinates moved to stop Sorenan from walking into the pavilion when Sorenan fixed him with a look. Sorenan's eyes, which had been almost olive green, lightened to the color of amber as they narrowed. The other man paled and made a warding gesture as the angered man passed by him. For once, Sorenan decided that the whisper he was a demon might actually have been useful.



Once inside the tent, Sorenan noticed Zalaz and the commander at a table with a map unfurled. Standing near the cot, attempting to will herself into invisibility was a dark eyed woman who looked barely to be an adult. "An escort will bring you to Asser," Sorenan said to her. She jumped a little at Sorenan's words, not expecting someone to actually speak to her. Zalaz looked up from the map and saw the woman standing there. He looked over at Sorenan and noticed the anger simmering in him.



As the general opened his mouth to call for a soldier to perform the duty that Sorenan declared would be done, a footsoldier burst in to the tent. "The riders are coming into bow range, Lord High General," he said, "They bear the standard of Temna. No others are behind them. They appear to be unarmed." Zalaz and Sorenan exchanged a look that spoke volumes. The commander was confused.



"Do we bring them before the Empress?" Sorenan asked. Zalaz looked down at the map and drummed his fingers on the table.



"Yes, with an armed escort and we accompany them," Zalaz said with out looking up, "Pick the men you think best suited." Sorenan nodded and walked out as the commander summoned up the courage to attempt to argue with the general as to who should accompany the coming party. Sorenan didn't need to listen in to know that Zalaz was about to educate his subpar commander as to what his duties were and just how far his rank allowed him to go. He was, however surprised when Zalaz had not raised his voice.



Sorenan looked at the men about the innermost circle of the encampment. He noted with some approval that most of them were like the man who still was holding the reins of the horses. He pointed to nine men. "You, fetch your weapons and spears," he said. The lieutenant nearest to him looked as though he was about to argue when Sorenan fixed his leonine eyes on him. "Clear a path for the messengers to come through the encampment," he said to the lieutenant, "We will not give them a chance to see our numbers but they will know we were awaiting them. Each man along that path will be armed and facing them. I want our guests to be ... welcome and secure." The lieutenant looked at him confused by Sorenan's final statement.



The nine that Sorenan ordered to arm themselves returned to him as the other man gave the orders that Sorenan demanded. Zalaz walked out of the pavillion. He looked at the armed men that Sorenan selected and gave a small nod of approval. "The envoys will not be pleased with their reception," Zalaz said dryly. Sorenan scoffed as he mounted his horse. Zalaz mounted and watched as an aisle formed between the ranks through the encampment. All along the sides of that aisle, warriors stood as though awaiting formal inspection. "It may be that you will do well at this after all," Zalaz said and Sorenan rolled his eyes. With a small, feirce smile, the general said, "Let us meet our guests."



The two men rode sedately through the encampment with their nine companions marching at their backs. As the Lord High General and the Sword-bearer of Ashur passed, a whisper went through those who stood watching behind the guard. Zalaz noted with some satisfaction that discipline held though the curious men wanted to get a better look at them. Zalas and Sorenan stopped at the edge of the encampment and watched as the riders drew closer. The banner of Temna snapped in the wind as the party, which was actually six men, reined in their horses and stopped before Zalaz and Sorenan.



"Give us passage," the lead rider demanded, "We come bearing a message from King Ashera, first of his name and blessed by Adar, god of all gods, ruler of Temna. We speak only to the Empress of Dacia, she who is the Daughter of Julara." As the man spoke, Zalaz's expression turned still and Sorenan's became inscrutible.



"We shall give you passage and an escort. I am Zalaz, Lord High General of Dacia. You shall be under my personal protection," the general said solemnly.



The leader of the party turned his gaze to Sorenan. "The demon of the north rides with you," he said, "Your offers of protection are worthless with it at your side."



Zalaz's ferocious smile returned. "Say what you will, the Sword-bearer of Assur remains with us. You are welcome to return to Temna with your words unsaid," he replied in an almost pleasant tone. The man before him dressed in black robes frowned.



"It rides before us," the lead messenger said, "If it threatens us, we shall cut it down."



Zalaz's smile vanished and a stony look replaced it. "Arrogance does not become the messengers of Temna. Speak against the Sword-bearer of Assur again and you will not like the consequences," Zalaz replied, all pretence of pleasantries falling out of his manner. The subordinates of the messenger looked between themselves uneasily. "Come, if you would see her Ladyship," Zalaz said.



The messengers said nothing as Zalaz and Sorenan turned their mounts and began to ride back through the camp. As they followed, the escort surrounded them. "You would threaten us with your men of arms," the lead messenger said.



Sorenan called back of his shoulder, "They are for your protection. We would be remiss if we allowed harm to befall you in your duty." Uncomfortable silence reigned as the party passed through Asser. The hill that Dacia stood atop looked green and inviting, almost a paradise to the desert men that rode with Sorenan and Zalaz. The leader of the party looked about himself with some interest.



The group traveled over the road to Dacia the lead messenger commented, "Your fields seem ready for harvest yet no one is at work." Sorenan said nothing, as did Zalaz. The hostile silence worked to make the envoy party uncomfortable and intensely conscious of their lack of substantial arms. Of the entire group, only the leader bore a sword. The subordinate messengers silently plotted how they would seize the weapons of their escorts if it was necessary. Though Zalaz and Sorenan seemed to ignore the group of men riding behind them, they were paying them close attention, listening for any conversation between them.



The gates of Dacia came into view as they made their way up the hill. The city guard stood watching as the little party approached. Someone noted that the riders with the general and Sorenan were surrounded by an armed escort. When they passed the outer walls, a second armed escort surrounded the party. "Yet more men to threaten us," the envoy said.



"Dacia does not threaten," Zalaz answered, "They are for your welfare within the city. Some have grown suspicious of Temna and would greet you unpleasantly."



"Are not your guard sufficient?" the envoy demanded.



"The city watch is not under my command," Zalaz responded, "If the commander of the watch deems it necessary to provide you protection, then he will do so. As he has." The messengers were ushered through the marketplace, where the people of Dacia watched them uneasily. Soon, they were at the courtyard before the temple of Julara. As they came to a halt, Mina stepped forward from the portico with Marcos at her side. Members of the city guard stood posted about the courtyard at the various entrances.



Zalaz brought the party to a halt in the center of the square. The city watchmen moved away from the party to join their breathren in arms at their postings. People peered around them as Zalaz's soldiers moved a distance away from the envoys. Zalaz dismounted. Sorenan did so as well as a servant came running to take their horses. As their mounts were lead away, Zalaz watched Sorenan walk to stand at Marcos's side.



"Blessed Lady, holy Empress, she who is the Daughter of Julara," Zalaz called loudly, his voice filling the air with its strident tones, "I bring an envoy of Temna to your presence." Mina looked down on the party still mounted behind Zalaz. She watched as Zalaz stepped aside, his hand resting upon the hilt of his sword. The lead envoy looked up at Mina, clearly displeased that she stood above him.



"We come bearing a message from King Ashera, first of his name and blessed by Adar, god of all gods, ruler of Temna," the man in black said, "He demands that the Empress surrender herself to his protection and submit Dacia to his rule as a protectorate. King Ashera promises that the Empress will be attended with all honors due to her as the Daughter of Julara. He gives his word that Dacia shall prosper under his benevolent hand."



Mina looked down at him, disappointed that her intuition about the envoy was correct. She turned her attention to Marcos. "He offers us subjugation and humiliation," she said in a voice that was loud enough to be carried to the envoy party. Marcos's expression had the unearthly calm that came from Ashur's hand being upon him. He set his hand upon the sword at his right side.



"King Ashera does not intend to humiliate you, Empress," the envoy said, "He would treat you with all honor and graciousness."



"His demands must be answered in kind," Marcos said. He stepped forward, with Sorenan at his side, he walked down the steps of the temple. As the Sword-bearers of Ashur approached, the lead envoy dismounted. Following their leader's example, the rest of the party dismounted. "General," Marcos said, "Attend me." Zalaz approached. The lead envoy stepped forward to be lead up the temple steps.



His expression of shock remained fixed upon his face as his head fell to the ground after Marcos's sword flashed in the light. The span between drawing his blade and beheading the lead envoy was shockingly small, even to Zalaz's seasoned eye. The others of the envoy attempted to mount as the three men approached. Zalaz and Sorenan hewed down two men each as Marcos wounded a third. The last two men of the envoy had some how managed to mount their horses before Zalaz and Sorenan were upon them. With the practice of years of experience, the two warriors pulled the unarmed men off their horses. Sorenan killed his captive as Zalaz forced his to his knees. The horses had run towards the other end of the courtyard, where they were captured by the guardsmen.



Marcos walked up to Zalaz's captive who stared up at him in terror. "You will bear this message back to Ashera. Tell him that Ashur's wrath has turned upon him. Tell him that Adar kneels before Ashur, father of all gods, and so shall Temna before the Daughter of Julara if they dare march against her," Marcos said in a flat tone. He brought up his sword and cut the captive man's right cheek as Sorenan came forward and cut the left. "These marks from Ashur's sword will help you remember this message," Marcos said. Marcos turned his gaze to Zalaz.



"Behead the bodies and fix the heads upon the saddle of this envoy's horse. Bind him and fix him to his mount. Drive him from our presence," he commanded. The captive, who froze with terror as Marcos and Sorenan cut his face, attempted to break free from Zalaz's hold. Marcos returned his attention to the prisoner. "It is Julara's mercy that you live," he said, "Her Daughter would have you bear this message. Be thankful for it, because Ashur would have you killed as well."



"He will kill you," the captive screamed at Marcos and Sorenan as they turned and walked up the steps to stand with Mina. "Adar will wipe you from the earth. Dacia will kneel," he shrieked as he was dragged to his horse by Zalaz's men. Marcos looked over at Mina, a silent question in his eyes.



"He will keep his tongue to bear the message," she said, "Let him be gagged." Zalaz heard Mina and passed word to his men. Soon, the envoy was bound to his horse with the heads of his companions. He glared at Mina and Marcos with hatred. The guards closed in around him and he was escorted away along the path he had come. A servant had brought cloths for Marcos, Sorenan, and Zalaz to clean their blades. The city watch turned to return to their posts when Mina raised her hands high.



All turned to look at her. "War comes upon us. The journey from Temna to here is three weeks time. All who take arms do so with the blessings of Julara and Ashur," she called out to her people, "Forces come to us from through out the empire. We shall not fall."

Inspiration.

I find inspiration in many places. Right now, it is a bit hard to come by. I think that is due to the combination of stress and brain fog from my allergies. Usually, music is a really big source of inspiration for me. I like to listen to soundtracks of movies and classical works. I have a love of the romantic period Russian composers. I also find inspiration in contemporary music. I am saddened that E.S. Posthumus is no more. Apparently, this was two brothers working together to produce electro-classical works. One of the brothers died and that was the end of E.S. Posthumus.

Taking walks, I sometimes have ideas pop into my mind or solutions to plot problems arise from seemingly nowhere. I highly recommend the practice of taking a daily stroll. It is great exercise and has a lot of health benefits. But the thing I really love about them is the way I always come back from a walk with new ideas for something to write. I wish I had more picturesque surroundings to walk through, like I did when I was growing up on the farm. Still, I have the lake near by and this little town we live in is generally pleasant.

I wish I could say that my children inspired me. It is less that they inspire material as much as they provoke strong emotions which become expressed through my writing. Some days, I am filled with deep love and happiness. Most days, I find myself rather frustrated. By purging my frustration on the page, I find myself having a better grip on how to parent. I suppose everyone needs an outlet for those feelings and mine happens to be the written word.

Pictures and reading about different places in the world (and different periods of history) have always been an enormous source of inspiration. Dacia, the empire that I have a serial I'm working on here, is based in a fantasy version of the empires of Babylon and Assyria. I've taken some liberties with how things are structured and such. At the same time, however, you can see those roots if you look hard enough. I like to draw details from history of our world into my writing because it makes it a bit more meaty.

In case you haven't noticed, I prefer my fantasy with a heavy dose of realism in it. By basing material on existing facts within our world, I make it easier for someone to suspend reality long enough to enjoy the story. I figure because I absolutely love this experience, I should share it with you, my readers. I find visceral pleasure in the well written word and expertly crafted stories. I aspire to reach the same level of skill as authors like Jacqueline Carey. Their lush worlds, vibrant characters, and clever plots draw me in and have a mesmerizing hold on me. Reading is my escape just as much as my writing is. And I hope to make it a pleasurable escape for you, my readers.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Random thoughts.

I have been struggling with allergies all week. The Benadryl has not been doing much for my itchy eyes and uncomfortable sinuses. It has lead to my not being as productive as I wanted to be. As much as I hate winter, I look forward to the time where my allergies will be alleviated by the blanket of white everywhere. I have, however, been thinking quite a bit.

I have a new laptop. As I am getting familiar with it, I find myself considering naming it and at something of a loss for what that name should be. I was worried at first because I couldn't find the word processing software and thought I had to download something. Then, after some tinkering, I finally found it and played around with it a bit. It seems to be just like Word, which I have been using for all these years when I am not writing out things longhand. I think my next logical step, before I start pounding out some serious writing with it, should be to acquire a thumb drive. I'm not sure what brands are good, so if any of you, my readers, have suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

I spent a large portion of this week cleaning up my project room. I now have a work space where I can sit with my laptop and work with out distractions. I will confess, in addition to my laptop, I have an assortment of pens which includes three dip pens (and bottles of ink), six felt tipped calligraphy pens, and two fountain pens with interchangeable tips. As I was going through my pen collection, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I really do love writing with these pens. At the same time, I feel like I need a good set of cheap but smooth writing ball point pens. I've been looking at the Pilot G3 pens at the local Walmart and moving towards buying a small stock of them.

With my uncovering my writing space and where I had hidden my lovely, lovely pens, I also discovered yet another notebook relating to a large writing project. It is the first one that I started to record ideas for the Sanctuary series in. I don't have a lot in there, but it is good that I found it because my other notebook is getting quite full. I am in the middle of working on revising the first book of the Sanctuary series. I don't feel as confident with that one as I do with the Umbrel Chronicles because the different genre. Still, I keep feeling the push to write it, so I have been. I am trying to decide if I will publish that under a pen name or not. When I have things more settled with that series, I will let you know more about it.

I have started the process of drafting out and plotting book seven of the Umbrel Chronicles. Editing books three and four has been slow and somewhat difficult going. I have been finding quite a few errors and correcting them. The major parts of the story, however, remain intact and that is something that I am pleased with. I have yet to begin the revision process on books five and six. They are in the 'mellowing' period where I let a manuscript rest before I come back to it and start revisions. I like to let a manuscript sit for around half a year so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes. It slows down the production process, I suppose, but it makes for a better quality result.

One thing that I do know, however, is that book seven will be longer than the previous books. I found myself writing to a word count (50k approximately) that has come to feel too arbitrarily short. Sure, I can tell a story in 50k words. My six books give evidence of that. I feel, however, that I am stopping in the middle of the action. Editing has only reinforced this feeling that I am stopping short of where I need to be. So, this time, I am going to write until the story tells me it is finished. I don't know if it will be 50k or 100k words when I stop, but I'm not going to worry about it. I am just going to focus on following the wisdom of Earnest Hemingway and 'Write the truest sentence you know.'

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mythos of Evandar: The courtship of Sigurt and Roen

I am beginning a new segment on here. I will be recording the various iterations of the body of myths and lore of Evandar. Some of it will be focused in different regions. And there will be some that are larger and go between multiple groups. I will attempt to make note of where each myth fits in the world. Below is the first iteration of the myth of the courtship of the goddess Roen and the god Sigurt. I wrote this back in the spring of 1997. What changes there may be to it are adjustments for spelling and grammatical errors.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I begin with the time before time, when Roen, Sigurt, Kaileth, and Morguthu were young and the world just formed. In the eternal darkness between the stars, long before any of us, the gods saw the world. Morguthu, in his cruelness, saw the shining beauty and innocence of the world as a thing to be destroyed. He walked on the earth. From him came plague, sorrow, hatred, and violence. A surge of evil tainted the defenseless children of the First Age.

They battered each other, destroying their brethren of spirit for a perceived gain. Many were fearful, pleading with Morguthu to loosen the death hold he had on the world. Kaileth heard their please and sought the cause. Discovering the pain and anguish of all the folk of the world, he went to his sister. Roen began the arts of healing and with the aid of her brother, she created places of protection.

This proved not to be enough, though. Roen walked the earth, bringing what peace she could. Morguthu tried to attack her, meeting with Kaileth each time. His [Morguthu's] brother was in a region of the world untouched by Morguthu's poisons. After a time, the sounds of sorrow reached him and he awoke from his sleep. Sigurt saw the work being done by Roen and Kaileth. As the pair worked side by side, Sigurt slowly began to fall in love with her [Roen], watching them from a distance. Morguthu saw his brother's growing adoration as was furious. Tempted to seek to destroy everything Roen had created, he brooded.

During this time, Roen and Kaileth reversed most of the harm wrought by Morguthu. The world grew to be almost healthy again. Sigurt saw the immense damage wrought by his brother and began to do what he could to ease the world's pains as well. When Morguthu walked the world again, Roen ans Sigurt had began to become close. Morguthu used all of his arts of deception to make himself as fair as the rising dawn. Kaileth saw him approaching Roen, and knew it was their foe despite the fair face. Kaileth warned his beloved sister that Morguthu was soon to arrive. Taking the form of a sparrow, Kaileth stayed close.

Morguthu dazzled fair Roen's eyes at first. He claimed to have fallen in love with the goddess and wished her to be his bride. A tinge of icy, bitter rage swirled through his guise as Roen turned away. Softly, she told him he was a danger to her and her creations. He insisted she was safe with him and that her creations were as well. She frowned and sternly told him she would not be his.

In a flash fire of rage, he attacked her. With all her strength and power, she banished him from her. After Sigurt had confessed his love, and Roen confessed her's for him, they were wed. Kaileth guided the world as Morguthu began to rage. As Sigurt and Roen celebrated their union, the world knew peace. And thus began the First Age.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Clearly very different from what I have developed now, you can still see the seeds of the more mature story in this one. Something that I should note is that the spelling of Kaileth changed multiple times through out this very brief story. The very first version of the name of the god of chaos and magic was Kalieth. Somehow, over the many years I have been working on this, the name changed to what it is now. I think it happened about seven years ago, but I'm not entirely sure.

It is also evidence that my writing style was once far less elegant than it is now. One of the things that annoys me about this first version of the story was how repetitive I was. It also bothers me that I kept everything so vague. I am glad that I've made the changes I have over the years. It gives the story greater depth and a sense of history.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Flora et Fauna: Gryphons

Gryphons are considered mythical creatures by the people of Evandar. The tales about them describe them as a cross between an eagle, dragon, and great cat. In the north, the cat is the pumas that roam through out the region. In the south, the cat is the bobcats (which are slightly smaller than the pumas and disinclined towards resting in trees). Every story, however, describes gryphons to be carnivorous and generally creatures of foul temperament. The life cycle of gryphons alters in what region the stories come from. In the north, they are said to have hatched from eggs. In the south, they are said to have been birthed in litters akin to what cats have. In either case, the juvenile gryphon is said to be self sufficient upon its entrance into the world. They are described, functionally, as smaller versions of the adults. Females are said to be particularly nasty towards humans.

The gryphon is a description of an animal that once existed during the First Age. They were formed by the magic of the Deamons and attended their makers/masters much like dogs attend to their owners. Mature gryphons were the size of a horse. They possessed the wings of a true dragon, though they were feathered like an eagle's wing. Their heads were like that of an eagle and their bites could sever limbs easily. They also possessed the ability to spit venom a considerable distance. Their lower body was akin to that of a great cat, complete with claws and a tail. The immature gryphons had the coloration and appearance of a bobcat. Once they reached the size of a pony, however, they shed the bobcat look and looked more like pumas.

Gryphons were considered abhorrent abominations. With the defeats of the Deamons in the Great War, the magical construct of the gryphon destabilized and turned into egg shaped stones. These stones are collected and used for malevolent folk magic. There is no trace of the magical power that shaped the gryphons in these stones, though they look exotic compared to the stones of the region. The stones were small enough to fit in a large man's hand with room to spare. They appear to be fashioned from raw crystal shot through with random dark lines. The gryphon stones are generally considered ill luck and even the most greedy of people will not handle them. Indeed, some people have fashioned facsimile gryphon stones for the purpose of terrifying the receiver. These fake gryphon stones, however are not shot through with the dark lines. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Locations or Setting Details?

I have hit a little bit of an impasse. My notebooks have a great deal of rough details about locations and about that which is found in them. I feel like I need to draw up a better, more detailed map for Evandar and its immediate vicinity. At the same time, I feel like I need to draw up sketches of plant life and animals found in the region. I am somewhat stuck on which to work on. I am a bit of a loss for where to begin with either subject.

I want to get into the swing of posting on here regularly. The problem is I find myself overwhelmed by all my notes and despair of many any cohesion out of them. I know this sense of futility will pass. Until it does, I ask your forgiveness.