Thursday, February 25, 2016

History of the World (part 1)

I will confess, the title of this post is an homage to that hilarious Mel Brooks movie of the same name. If you haven't seen it, rent it and watch it. His take on the Spanish Inquisition is almost as off the wall as Monty Python's.

The geological history of the planet that Evandar is located on is quite similar to that of Earth's history. A cataclysmic event happened in the early epoch that killed off the very large creatures that lived during this time, except for a small population that adapted to the changes. They are scattered through out the world. The sentient population which was functionally decimated are what is known as greater wyrms or dragons. The population of the survivors that were not self aware (and actually were feed for the greater wyrms during the time of desolation that followed the event) are the lesser wyrms. The greater wyrms are solitary creatures, partly due to the vast distances between the enclaves that were present and partly due to their disinclination towards each other's company after spending the better part of no less than three Ages. (An Age is counted as 5,000 years. A day on this planet is approximately the same as a day on Earth and the orbit of the planet is equivalent to that of Earth's orbit about the Sun.)

There is buried evidence of the societies of the greater wyrms. The megolithic structures used by early humans were the ruins of their buildings. There is a language that the greater wyrms used to communicate during their time surviving the period of global desolation. It is unknown by humans, elves, or deamons. Because the greater wyrms are beings of primordial power and greater age than the demigods, they are regarded with great caution by the demigods. There was a period early after the arrival of the demigods in the world where the greater wyrms assisted them with the development of skills necessary to survive in the world. After ensuring that the demigods had what they needed to live within the world, the greater wyrms, for the most part, withdrew for interaction with the world.

The demigods watched over the rise of humans. There were groups of humans who worshiped the demigods as deities in their own right. This, however, came to a halt when the deities made their presence known in the world at the beginning of what is known as the the First Age. (Evandar at the time of book one is in the Fifth Age. It is in the beginning of what is the second Age after the Great War.) The deities of the world were more than those of Evandar (Sigurt, Roen, Kaileth, and Morguthu).

The Great War was a two continent wide war between Morguthu and Sigurt. It lasted for a hundred years. The Great War began when the deamons began a wide spread campaign to steal human children to warp with their magics and turn into slaves, which were eventually known as deamon thralls. During the Great War, the seven kingdoms of Evandar consolidated into the greater kingdom of Evandar. This was an attempt to prevent the destruction of the member kingdoms. The first high king of Evandar was an avatar of Sigurt named Sigurt the Gold. He was wedded to an avatar of Roen, who bore the goddess's name, who was a powerful sorceress. Through diplomacy and appeals to the continuance of human liberty, the seven kingdoms united under Sigurt the Gold.

Prior to their union, the forces of men were guided by the elves. Freyr Greenwood, the king of the elves of Dragonwood forest, was the principle agent of leadership. He held council with Agrimmon of the halls beneath the hills of Dakon-Bar and with the elfin queen of the north known as Sulia the White. Sulia the White's forces were drawn from the mountains in the north of Evandar and Ranyth. These forces, however, were among those who were slaughtered in the disastrous campaign on the Marches of Elspar and Corinth. That was the first of the grief that came in those lands. I have spoken of the sad fate of Llyrian and his kin earlier[1].

The battles about the Sea of Dreams (which is a byname for the sea which has claimed countless lives since men and elf has begun to sail it, its name among the elves is the Cursed Sea) were horrific. They lead to the breaking of nations. One battle, however, was particularly horrific. It was that of the Crystal city. Three of the elves were taken prisoner from the three armies that opposed the deamons in Evandar. Of the three, the youngest escaped the death that awaited them after the deamon Axeron had taken them into custody and attempted to learn what the movements of the armies were planned.

This union of kingdoms signified the beginning of a shift of the Great War in favor of the human and elfin forces. The deamons fought hard but eventually forced into the cursed marshlands known as the Darklands to the humans of modern Evandar. In that age, these lands were unnamed and uncursed, as far as holdings of the deamons could be considered to be uncursed. Within the Darklands, there was a city simply known as the black city or Mordri in the language of Evandar. This city was the site of the final battle of the Great War where in the deamons were banished by Roen's magics, aided by the elves, into the void space of reality known as the outer darkness.

After the Great War came to an end, the avatars of Sigurt and Roen brought peace and healing through the seven kingdoms. When they cast off their mortal forms, the spider politics of the council became even more twisted. It was not long after then that arguments arose within the southern kingdoms of Evandar. It was near this time that the people of Freyr Greenwood (who had died in the battle prior to that of the black city) withdrew from the world of men and ventured east. The youngest of them argued that the duty of the elfin peoples was to care for humanity. She was scorned. Thus, as her kinsmen traveled east, she remained within Evandar's boundaries in the place of her birth.

The Plains of Llyrian

This is the tale of how the Plains of Llyrian gained their name and the doom of one tribe of the people known as the Cordid.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Iron Lily (Part 2)

Halthor looked around Aleric's house slowly, attempting to impress to memory each sight before him before his gaze fell on Aleric. The man himself was busy filling a pack with food. While Halthor was willing to pack his own goods, Aleric insisted. Sitting on the table between them was an iron headed hammer. Heavy enough to possibly carve stone with a decent chisel, Aleric's favorite hammer bore a mark on it that was different from what Halthor had seen on any other tool that Aleric owned. A stylized lily was impressed into the side of the head of the hammer, a mark that looked more fitting for a nobleman's goods than a builder's tool.

Halthor had asked Aleric where he had gotten the hammer many times in the past. Aleric always put the conversation off to another day. Now, with Halthor leaving on the next day's dawning, the question was forgotten from Halthor's part but pressing on Aleric's mind. Aleric glanced at the hammer on the table. "My father received that hammer as a gift," Aleric said, hastily looking away when Halthor's attention turned to him. "It was given to him by a man who was in the king's service and bore the mark of the stag on his right wrist," Aleric continued, shifting a few items in the pack so that he might fit a small leather pouch of herbs and spices into it, "On that day, my father killed a man. It was a crime that should have had him hanged, except for the fact that the man my father killed proved to be a spy. My father caught that man from the south on the verge of defiling the king's daughter. The king's bodyguard caught my father with his hammer in hand and the spy laid out at his feet, stone dead. The princess plead for my father's life."

Aleric looked over at Halthor. "My father was a man who was in the wrong place at the right time. He was a journeyman who had come into the stables looking for his master. When he saw what was happening, he pulled the man off of the princess and drove his hammer between his eyes," Aleric's voice had dropped into a low, troubled tone as he spoke, "The king's chief adviser came to him in the chamber where the guard kept him. He brought word of royal pardon and a reward. When my father left the palace, he bore this hammer and the epithet of 'the avenger.' I thought this was a story that my father told to entertain me in the evenings."

Aleric's hands settled upon the pack. "Aleric the Avenger became a master builder in his own right," Aleric said with something that sounded almost like regret, "When the king was in need of a man to build a new bridge over Sweetwater, he sent for my father. When he was in need of someone to rebuild the wall at the river's edge, he sent for my father. I was a journeyman when that wall was finished. Twice as wide and just as high as the ones about the palace, the west wall was the first of the six built around the city. My father planned them all. He died before they were finished." Uneasy silence built up between Halthor and Aleric.

"My wife died in childbed," Aleric said, "I married her in a desperate effort to forget your mother. And then ... Then you came to me and I had an heir." Aleric looked over to Halthor, his eyes shining with unshed tears. "I was ready to take this hammer and avenge her. Your father is the spawn of the darkling prince himself. But I couldn't leave you with no one in this world or let you go back to that man to be killed. Sigrid was the kindest, best woman to have walked this world. Now she lives on in you."

Halthor took a step around the table towards his master. Aleric held up a hand and his journeyman apprentice halted before he drew closer. "You speak as though you're never going to see me again," Halthor said, "I will be back when the autumn leaves fall. I ..."

Aleric's voice was harsh as he said, "You will not be in my home again come next winter. I will not see you after this." Halthor's expression turned pained. Aleric's frustration bled out of him as he sighed. "I am an old man, Halthor," Aleric said, "I haven't lost my wits yet. I haven't grown weak, yet. But I am old. The priestesses of the Good Mother have told me that my death draws near. They have always spoken true. Tomorrow will be the last time I will see you in this world. This is but the first of the signs they had given me."

Halthor replied, "This is not a sign of your doom. You misunderstand them. Their soothsaying is cryptic and can mean anything." Aleric's expression hardened as frustration returned to his gaze. "You're not as old as you say you are," Halthor continued gesturing towards him, "You have a bit of frost in your hair, and your beard if you let it grow, but so do many men. And they live to an old age."

"Halthor," Aleric said sharply, "Be quiet and listen." Halthor restrained the urge to argue with Aleric further. "This is no mere hammer. There is something queer about it. Every blow struck with it is true. Strike with any chisel and you can carve even the hardest stone. Be careful with it. I would argue that my father's good luck came from it, though in my youth I thought it was his hard work and the king's favor," Aleric explained, "I am sending it away with you. It will keep you safe on your journey. Though sending it away will be my doom."

Halthor looked at the hammer on the table. "Take it," Aleric said after an uncomfortably long silence, "It is the first of the tools I have for you." Halthor looked at Aleric, ready to argue he was not ready to be a master builder. Aleric reached over and put a work hardened hand on Halthor's wrist. "You are ready and I am old. You can not go south a journeyman. The guild here has been eager to name you among their number. They'll do it in your absence. It is better you leave with the tools you will need and the title than returning to Starhaven with out them and my work to finish," he cautioned. Halthor sighed. "Go, sleep. I haven't much need for it anymore," Aleric said. Halthor recognized that his master, his adoptive father, would not permit further discussion, though Halthor said next to nothing.

As Halthor mounted the stairs up to the second story where two small rooms waited them, a bed for each hidden in their gloom, Aleric watched him. Aleric looked down at the leather sack. He tugged on the straps over it and nodded when he found they resisted his hardest pull. "Three days," Aleric said sadly, "Gods willing he will be well to the south before he gets the pangs of homesickness." The master builder looked about his kitchen. His heart was heavy and pained. His blue eyes glanced up at the ceiling where he heard Halthor cross the room to his bed.

Silent tears for the grief that was to come to the young man that refused to leave him but by a king's order rolled down Aleric's cheeks. He then brushed them away before briskly setting to work packing the next bag for Halthor. Aleric opened a chest that sat near the door. He pulled out the heavy linen wrapped parcel. As he set it on the table and uncovered the tools within, Aleric wondered if his father worried over the tools he gave him at the end of his apprenticeship. Caught in such maudlin thoughts, Aleric was up late into the night.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Serial Story: The Iron Lily

A serial story set in Ranyth. The events of this story take place two generations before the events of The Dragon's Daughter. The King of Ranyth is Thora's great-grandfather. This story is the account of how a humble builder is swept up into the business of nobles and Gods. It is part of a larger story that does get referenced in the Umbrel Chronicles of Evandar (look for details in books six and seven).

The Iron Lily

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven

The Iron Lily (part 1)

Halthor pushed his hair out of his eyes and resumed the exhausting work of planing. The apprentice turned journeyman carpenter, Halthor Sigridsonne was not pleased with the fact that the lumber he was to be using for the queen's chamber in the hall was warped. While he could have set one of the junior journeymen to work on planing the lumber, the auburn haired man needed a break from the endless labor of laying planks for the wainscotting of the room. He had reached the point where the pile of usable material was dwindling. Thus, the work to make the subpar material better.

'Sigridsonne's a lazy man," a voice drawled behind him, "Look at him doing an apprentice's job and not bothering with his own work. I don't see why you keep him." Halthor frowned at the red pine and pressed harder against the wood as he shaved it smoother. The king's steward kicked a block of excess wood laying on the ground towards Halthor before he continued. "You should fire him. He is better suited to a serf's lot than this work," the man said loftily, "His own father rejected him. The man has all the grace of a bull and his visage disturbs the eye."

Aleric, Halthor's master, made a noise of disagreement but said nothing. Aleric never said anything when the steward spoke. Privately, Aleric insisted that Halthor take up the mantle of master of his craft. It was a long running discussion between them. Aleric, with his thirty years of experience, insisted that Halthor was more than adequate at his work to strike out on his own. Halthor insisted, however, that he was not half as good as he should be to go on his own. Aleric could have pressed the issue. He could have declared Halthor a master of his craft and kicked him out of his home.

Aleric, however, had a fondness for Halthor. It didn't hurt that Sigrid, Halthor's late mother, was once Aleric's sweetheart when they were young. Halthor's father was a brutal man. When Halthor was but eight years of age, he watched as his father came home from the tavern drunker than he had ever seen him. The man screamed about how Sigrid was the reason why he didn't have more money. He raged about other things, things that Halthor's unfortunate mother had no influence over though she was blamed for it. That was the day that Halthor watched his father beat his mother to death over the fact that her father, a somewhat prosperous merchant, left a pittance to her when he died.

Halthor ran when his father turned to face him. Aleric found Halthor running for the temple of the Good Mother with his face white with terror. Aleric took him in. When Halthor's father came to demand the return of his son, Aleric declared that Halthor was now his apprentice and that he could not be released from his oath of service. While Halthor had made no such oath, Aleric maintained that it was made when the court of the guilds came together and Halthor's father demanded his son's return. When all eyes fell on young Halthor, he looked between his red haired father and fair haired Aleric. And he chose Aleric.

Aleric treated Halthor as though he were his own son. Now that Aleric's hair had more white in it, the builder was of the mind that Halthor needed to take up the master builder's mantle so that he could take over Aleric's business when the day came that he died. Aleric's gentle reproof of Halthor's reluctance was an almost daily discussion had out of habit now. Lost in his reverie of his history with the master builder, Halthor missed when the king's man had left. He stood amidst wood shavings and dust. Aleric walked up to him and ran a hand over the board. While it was not as smooth as it would be when polished, it was a dramatic improvement over what it was to begin with.

Aleric did not lift his hand when Halthor made ready to make his next pass. Halthor looked up. Aleric looked down at the wood with such an expression of sorrow that Halthor was troubled. "The king's man demands that you leave or he will give the work to another," Aleric said quietly. Halthor looked down at the board before him. "I can not cast you out," Aleric said, "But..." Halthor straightened.

"I understand," he said. Halthor knew with out this project, Aleric would be with out work for the season. He would possibly be forced to beg for food. Despite Aleric Builder's skill, he was a poor man for the last several years. Aleric suspected it was because the head of the guild was offended when Halthor rejected his daughter. It all was nothing compared to the immediate problem, though, and Halthor put it out of mind. "I will go west," Halthor said, "The nobles of the border domains would be eager to have the work of one who had served the king." Aleric looked from the board to Halthor's face.

"I'm sorry," he said. Halthor straightened. "Return in a year's time," Aleric said, "It should be long enough that this man's ire will have turned to someone else." Halthor gave a dry humorless laugh. As he brushed the dust off of his apron, the auburn haired man wondered where he would get the coin to acquire tools or pay for his journey west. Aleric's gaze moved from Halthor's face to the doorway beyond him. His air of regret was suddenly washed away with wary attention as he stiffened.

Halthor turned. Dressed in a dark green tunic with embroidery over it in silks of a similar color, the king of Ranyth looked as though he was suffering jaundice. His skin seemed yellowed against the green he wore and his eyes were limpid pools of grey that were set in a face that looked perpetually ill. At his shoulder, the servant who had visited earlier was speaking in a tone that sounded far more uncomfortable than it had when he was last in the room. The thin man who ruled Ranyth walked through the sawdust strewn room with a look of keen attention. "You," he said when his gaze settled on Aleric, "Master Builder, have done fine work. The hidden chamber, has it been completed?"

Aleric bobbed a bow. "Yes, your Majesty," he said, "the door was finished this morning." The king made an imperious motion forward. Aleric lead the king and his lone servant to the cunningly hidden door in the wall. As he pushed a panel of the wainscotting in, a door that came to hip height opened. The king looked at the door and nodded with approval. He murmured quietly with Aleric and looked into the chamber that was scarcely large enough for a child to sit within. In the midst of that quiet discussion, the attention of all three men turned to Halthor.

They closed the door into the chamber and crossed the room. Aleric thought that the king and his man were going to continue out of the room. When they stopped beside Halthor, Aleric's gut clenched. The king's servant was known as a liar and for a moment, Aleric feared that the king would order Halthor's execution for some offense that was naught but wind. "I need a man to go to my cousin in the south," he said looking at Halthor.

"I am ever in your Majesty's service," Halthor said cautiously. The king pulled a pendant on a fine chain from beneath his tunic. As he lifted it over his head, he spoke.

"This is the sign of my service that you bear and the message you bring to my cousin," he said, "There is one who speaks of dissent. You are to go to my cousin, Olerand, and give him this token. Keep it safe until you reach him. The priests of the Dark One have become bolder over the last several months. Be wary of them. You shall be given coin for your journey and provisions."

Halthor said nothing, trying to reason why the king was personally giving him this duty. As the king held out the necklace, Halthor bowed his head. A stag worked in gold with a crystal caught in the antlers hung from the chain. As the king placed it upon Halthor, the journeyman builder felt some measure of heat pass through him, as though he had stepped out into the summer's heat though it was late in winter. "Keep it secret and safe," the king said. Halthor straightened.

"Why me?" he asked out loud in confusion before realizing he had spoken. The king's expression turned grave.

"Because the stone chose you," he said, "It is the High One's will. In the end, even kings serve the gods." Halthor slipped the pendant beneath his necklace, noting how it felt warm against his skin. "Kneel," the king of Ranyth commanded. Halthor knelt in the sawdust and bowed his head. As the king's thin hand was set upon his head, Halthor felt a ripple of power roll over him like warm water. "Be you blessed in the name of Sigurt, father of the Shining Ones and Lord of All Light."

Halthor looked up at the king as he removed his hand from Halthor's head. "Know that you carry the crown's greatest treasure upon you. Guard it with your life until you reach he who wards my heir," the king commanded. Halthor nodded. With that, the king turned and walked from the room. Halthor looked over at the hidden chamber and questioned its reasoning and set a hand against the pendant beneath his tunic.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Opinion: RooshV

Ordinarily I try to keep my opinions about the furor going on in the world off of this blog. It is not part of the scope of this blog's purpose. I try not to muddy the waters with stuff that is completely tangential. That said, I do have a special case here. RooshV. You've undoubtedly heard of the man, his mission, and the backlash he is experiencing. For the most part, I have to say that I feel that much of the public criticism and condemnation is well deserved and that he is, as a person, one of the most repulsive people I have ever had the misfortune of interacting with via the internet. (One conversation, only a few lines, and I came away entirely disgusted. I will not link to it. I had said conversation under an alternate pseudonym and I will not be sharing it here. That conversation does not have any bearing upon what I am posting here.)

So, if I approve of the public scorn and condemnation this man is facing, what am I discussing him here? It is the fact that people are lobbying Amazon books to discontinue carrying his works. It is the fact that people are actively working to have his books removed from the public sphere. While there is a great deal of good intentions here in this campaign, it overlooks something crucially important and the flaw with their efforts. What they are seeking to do is to censor the marketplace. As much as I scorn and despise the man, I can not condone the censorship efforts being put forward by the community.

It may be that RooshV is the Marquis De Sade of our generation and his work is morally repugnant to a enormous portion of the population. Our disgust with his work, however, does not give us the right to silence him. Because someone out in the world is going to pick up our work and find it morally repugnant. Someone in the world is going to look at the egregious approval of censorship on the basis of moral outrage and decide that the censorship of our own work is appropriate based on the precedent established in the censorship of RooshV.

Yes, RooshV's work is repulsive. Yes, there is reason to suspect that he has engaged in sexual assault of multiple people over the course of time and that he should be the subject of inquiry on the basis of this. And yes, we, as a society, should shun pro-rape materials and stances. (I personally feel very strongly that rape should carry a higher punishment than it does in here in the US but I do not know what that higher punishment should be.) All of these things, however, does not excuse censoring him.

If you want sites like Amazon to stop carrying his work, use market forces to get it removed from the shelves. A book that does not sell well will not be carried by a distributor because it is not cost effective to do so. Use your dollar to get his work out of the public sphere. Be openly critical of his work and exhort people not to purchase it. Challenge his supporters and dismantle their arguments, revealing how wrong they are.

This is how books leave the public sphere. It is by way of market forces and the lack of demand for their work. If he is not profitable, he will not get sales. Not only will this move the distributors to stop carrying him, it will limit his ability to spread these ideas because he will no longer be gaining profit from these books. If you want to stop him, this is how to do it whilst preserving the freedom of speech that all artists and authors require to engage in their work. This is how you do it and preserve the ability for us to speak out in dissent against ideas that we do not approve of.

Censorship is never the answer. RooshV's work is disgusting and the ideas he espouse are dangerous and repulsive. But I do not condone censoring him. And neither should you, for the sake of retaining your own voice.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Agony is...

Agony is the author who has no voice. (Literally for a few days in my case.) Agony is the ideas slipping out of your fingers and vanishing into vapor as you attempt to scribble them down. Agony is the torment of attempting to write something, anything for your audience and continually finding yourself staring at a blank page as words refuse to form.

Honestly, I find myself feeling a measure of despair over how hard it has been to get any writing done. Even my journal entries have been difficult. I know that being sick tends to make me get depressed. Being depressed makes it very hard for me to write. All of this, however, feels like tawdry excuses on par with the ancient 'the dog ate my homework' line.

I wish I had an eloquent apology for my lapses. I wish that I could show you all the effort I put in trying to produce work for you. Sadly, words fail me and I ... I find my attempts so utterly unworthy of the light of day that they wouldn't be merely a dusty heap at the bottom of a proverbial waste basket. No, I would be the one who lit them afire and buried the ashes in the desperate hope that no sign of their existence was known.

I may have a problem with being a perfectionist. That gets in the way a significant amount of the time as well. In giving myself permission to write poorly, I find myself often taking that work and hiding it from the world. Someday, long after I have departed this life, I am sure someone will take an interest in the volumes of material that I have sitting around that never made it into my books. Hopefully that person in the future will forgive the fact that it is not as high quality as what made it to print.

Long story short, I apologize for my silence. I have been unwell and it is making pretty much everything difficult right now.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Posting Delays.

Hi folks,

I'm recovering from a nasty cold that had me sick in bed all weekend. I am going to do my best to get something posted up here every day this week. I confess, I am most likely not going to be successful. Between a doctor's appointment later this week, a parent-teacher conference, and catching up on housework, I may have a hard time finding time to post this week. I will, however, do my best. I just wanted to keep you appraised and let you know I haven't forgotten about you.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.