I have some news for you.

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I should have posted this before, but workload got in the proceedings. As of a few weeks, my novel, Tempest Blades has a home! *Cue celebrations and embarrassing dance moves*

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Artemesia Publishing has agreed to publish the book under their Shadow Dragon Press imprint. They loved it, which is always a good sign. Now, the book won’t be out. As with anything related to the publishing industry, it will take time to get to the dead tree/dead e-reader I mean print and ebook final evolution. Edits have to be done, cover has to be designed and all of the marketing ideas have to be, well, planned. That takes time. When I talked about the timeline with the fine folks from Artemesia, we agreed that the reasonable launch date will be around the summer of 2019, this with the idea of ensuring a quality product.  As long as it is published before my birthday that year, I’m happy.

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The bright side of the somewhat long wait is that it gives me time to annoy you with pleads to buy the book as well as start writing the sequel. Because oh yes, there will be a sequel and hopefully a threequel and a quadroquel or whatever is said, with more electric boogalooness. Writing the sequel was not exactly in the cards and it takes me time to get a decent draft, between six months and a year, given my peculiar plotting & writing system. But that means that you will have time to wait for the book and re-read it. The Final Countdown begins.

So please keep an eye in this space for more news on Tempest Blades and thanks again to the people of Artemesia for this opportunity.

*Cue more embarrassing dance moves for several weeks*

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The Trickster Goddess.

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The Trickster Goddess from the Tempest Blades universe is an odd creature. Yes I know, is a deity and is bound to be inscrutable. But as the author, I’m privy to what goes behind the curtain regarding my characters. And yet, she does honor her sobriquet in a way, because no matter the story I write in that setting, she finds a way to get in it. She doesn’t appear that much in my novel or related stories… yet. But the very question of how to create a somewhat relatable deity without resorting in a deus ex machina was on my mind when I created the backstory of my setting and the character of the Trickster Goddess. While her character doesn’t appear per se, she has a considerable impact on the world.

I won’t reveal the name she goes by these days as it would be a spoiler for the novel, (I’m still working on publishing it). But I can reveal a few tidbits on her and if you read the novel you will understand who she is right away.

-She is a deity (obviously), but not a creator deity. She works for one and is related in a way that’s not entirely clear.

-Time runs differently for her than for a mortal. Not necessarily at an accelerated pace (e.g. a year for us is a day for her), nor she can see what’s in the future (she has visions of multiple futures though).

-She is older than THIS universe (the Tempest Blades ones) but not necessarily older than the entire creation.

-She was part of an ancient civilization of deities.

-Being as old as the universe (even if time works differently for her kind) tends to make one a tad unhinged so she (or at least her avatar that is the one doing the rounds in the novel) relies on a few tricks to remain relatable to the mortals she is watching over

-She likes technology, but prefer to do things by hand.

She keeps a library with the records of all that happens in the world and replicas of all inventions, but instead of a highly advanced computational system to keep track of everything (which she could create with ease), she likes to do it by hand, painstakingly classifying every bit on her own. After all, she has all the time in the world.

-She can’t enter directly into the mortal world or Realspace in her full form as the mere presence of her kind in that form is liable to break things: glasses, mountains, planets. The Wolrd’s Scar is the prime example of her doing that. I took her a few planets to learn not doing it. So now she uses an avatar -a female girl-, that’s part of her but not entirely her. The avatar has most of her memories (the rest are tucked in her library which is an avatar of sorts too) and a decent chunk of her power, but most of it and her true conscience is kept at the Overspace. That doesn’t mean the avatar is independent. It’s actually her without being her. You know, metaphysics. It also means that the avatar is indestructible.

-She likes to take the form of a red and black Raven. Mostly because the feeling of the wind caressing her feathers feels nice. Also because she likes to gossip and a raven used to go unnoticed.

-She likes to make the same pilgrimage that a whole of the Freefolk does from one point of the planet to another once in their lives (it was her idea originally). But she does in her avatar form and on foot every decade or so.

-She likes the company of mortals, mostly Freefolk.

-Once she fell in love with a human, during the Dawn Age of Theia. From that love she had two children, twins that are the ones forging the Tempest Blades from their hideout, so she is trying to emulate a family. They are still alive (they are demigods) but no one has seen them and have to follow some strict rules. Nothing is known about her partner.

-She finds mortals inspiring in a way. That’s why she aids those that become heroes. In a way.

-She doesn’t like to intervene. She can fight, but won’t do it. Don’t ask her for miracles. She expects mortals to be able to do their thing and only helps in indirect ways. And only when she is in the mood. She is a Trickster after all.

-Which means that her aid will be indirect and in the form of a pep talk, or scolding someone. Only a universal level of threat might compel her to act directly. And any favor she does to you will have to be paid back with interest. She is the strict teacher of the school.

-She likes to take on a student of the magical arts from time to time, mostly to have someone to talk about and go to the cinema. The said student might know the true identity of her avatar, but that won’t help him/her. There is a reason behind their selection.

-And she likes to annoy the hell out of a hero or two (mainly Fionn these days) under her several disguises, living different lives through her avatar.

-She had one mortal friend once, Asherah of the Freefolk, the First Magi and the first DragonQueen (that was back then when the Freefolk were still humanoid shapeshifters without a defined appearance).

-She has at least six other known siblings, but she doesn’t see eye to eye with them since she is the one taking a bigger interest in mortals and the Realspace. The rest are usually busy keeping eldritch beings (such as the Golden Emperor and the Crawling Chaos) away from creation.

-However, she argues that their duty would be better fulfilled if her siblings took the time actually know what they are fighting for rather than just following an ancient order. The point she makes to her siblings is this: how can you claim to be a guardian of the mortal world if you don’t experience it to understand it. So far the only one that has followed her advice is her older brother the Jailer.*

-As result of the above, the Jailer is, ironically and given their opposite functions, purviews, and points of view, the sibling she actually gets along. In a way. Their arguments about philosophy can be epic and last for centuries.

-She doesn’t demand worship. She doesn’t care and certainly doesn’t need it. In reality, finds it embarrassing. And yet she is the patron of Freefolk, magi, rogues, babies, and heroes. She is the one having faith in mortals.

-Used to play the bagpipe, but she lost hers.

-She hates being called a Goddess because she doesn’t feel she is divine, just is what she is. It’s complicated. But most mortals will call her that way rather than her one of her actual names, so after a while, it doesn’t bother her as much. She just ignores it.

-And she likes candies.

*Only when he can escape his job of keeping the evilest beings trapped in Hell, known as the Infinity Pits. He is the equivalent to Lucifer in the sense of being a punisher of evildoers, rather than the source of evil.

Buried Sins: of regrets and lost memories

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This week is the official launch of the sixth anthology from Inklings Press (disclaimer: I’m a founding member and I usually do the cover design for their anthologies). This one is entitled ‘Tales from the Underground’, already available on Amazon. Unlike the previous anthologies were the theme was dictated by the genre (fantasy, science fiction, horror and so on), the theme dictated the stories and their genres. This time it was ‘Underground’ as if it wasn’t already obvious by the title. That kind of stories that take place in the worlds beneath ours, be it stories of adventure and exploration, or stories of space sirens, ghosts, and fairies. Or as in the case of my featured story, ‘Buried Sins’, of the titular sins buried both in ruined cities and inside the soul of the main character.

I don’t know if this is my darkest story yet (Bone Peyote might want to debate that), but I think it fits within the ‘dark fantasy’ subgenre. That said, this story has a special meaning for me, so let me tell you why.

For starters, it takes place in the same world of my WIP novel ‘Tempest Blades’, roughly during the time of the first chapter of the said novel, but in a different continent, with different characters. I know I have previous stories set in the same world (‘Silver Fang’, ‘Cosmic Egg’) but they take place in the past or the future. ‘Buried Sins’ is the first one that takes place at the same time of my novel. Second, it gave me the chance to recover and I would say, rediscover a character (or two) that I had liked from my very earlier drafts from ten years ago and who got cut from the latest iteration of the Tempest Blades story. I thought that character had got lost from that universe, but in writing this story, he got a new lease on life and also helped me to bring back another character that had suffered the same fate (such character doesn’t appear in the story per se, rather it is an ancestor). Why? Because of he will appear in the sequel of the novel as one of the main characters (so yeah, that’s a bit of a spoiler I guess).

Third, this story helped me to give him his own personality, backstory (which this story is) and unique abilities, rather than the generic expy of a vampire he was when I started writing in college. Now he has a really interesting take, I believe, on the ‘demon’ inside as weapon and means of protection. And he has as well a personality, several lost memories and a proper backstory, key ingredients for a good character I think. Even if he falls into the ‘broody’ side.

Joshua, the main character of ‘Buried Sins’, is a man with blurred memories. He doesn’t know when he was born or who he was before he was used in experiments that make him the ‘monster’ he thinks he is. But he does know where he was born and the dangers lurking in a buried city full of nasty things. And he has to return there if he wants to save a friend of his, coaxed by unsavory people, even if that means unearthing the sins that are hidden within the thing that makes him a monster.

And finally and fourth: this is the first story where I truly explore, in a subtle way my battles with depression. I’m by no means an expert on depression. I can only talk about my own struggles with it since I was a teenager.

I started writing as a mean to deal with my depression. It was my way to explore and deal with many of those feelings in a healthier way.  Depression, contrary to what many people believe, never truly goes away. It lurks, buried deep down in your psyche, waiting for the proper moment to spring a flood of memories, regrets, and anxieties to hit you back. It is the ‘beast’ that you learn to live with. Pretty much like Joshua.

Nowadays, thanks to my wife, a support network of friends and family, writing and some therapy back in the day I’m feeling a bit better these days. That doesn’t mean I don’t get depressed (and with the current status of the world no one could blame anyone for getting depressed and anxious), but now at least I have options to deal with it. Joshua is on his way to start that path and that experience in this story will color his interactions with one of the main characters of Tempest Blades that is going under his own struggles with depression.

So as you can see, this is a very personal story for me and I’m glad I have the chance to get it out into the wider world. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed it writing it. And if you think about it, it is a sample of what you can expect from my novel once I get the chance to publish it.

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P.S: If you want the full experience when you read it, I recommend listening ‘Hurt’ by Johny Cash for three-quarters of the story and the Theme of One Punch Man during the finale. Yes, it’s quite the mood whiplash, but I like the combo because it ends on a more hopeful note than intended. Joshua, like any of us that suffer from regrets, is a person in search of redemption. The story is just the first part of that journey.

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 4: Freefolk religion & lost beliefs.

For Part 1: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

For Part 2: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

For Part 3: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 3: Human Religions.

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Freefolk religion.

After the fall of the last great Kingdom, the Kingdom of Ulmo, most of the organized religion of the freefolk fell into disarray, becoming a varied collection of ideas. It’s the less organized of the religions but probably one of the oldest if not the oldest. However, all the clans believe in certain core beliefs:

The Eight: the main gods and goddesses of the freefolk, of which the Trickster Goddess is the main one, not in terms of power but because she has bestowed her full attention on what she calls her children. Of her, we will talk later in detail.  The Eight are considered the first generation of the children of the Great Maker, the being that expelled chaos (as in entropy) from the universe. The Eight are the leaders of the Children –whom according to some legends from the Grasslands are the akeleth themselves- and each represents certain aspects and in turn, is represented by a mythical creature. This will be expanded in future posts, but of the Eight, the most revered are the Guardian, the Trickster, the Seer, the Healer and the Jailer.

Magick: is the gift from the Great Maker to the freefolk people, it is the blood of the planet and the stars and should be used for neutral or good aims. Magick is the innermost connection a freefolk can expect to achieve with the world itself. When it is corrupted then it calls upon the Eternal Ones, the eldritch beings living in the deepest of the Infinity Pits, or Hell.

Pilgrimage: Every certain number of years, a freefolk, a family or even a tribe is called into the Pilgrimage, a journey of self-discovery that makes that person or persons to walk the earth inside the World’s Scar from the Yumenomori Forest in the westernmost peninsula of Auris to the easternmost hill in the Grasslands of Ionis  and Balakef. In that journey, they are often tested by the Trickster Goddess herself in order to learn something about themselves and thus enhance their connection with the world –understanding that as reality itself- regardless if they possess or not the ability to channel magick.

The Tempest: the conflux of energies that separate the astral or spiritual plane from the living plane. Basically, the astral plane is where souls go after death but before choosing a final destination. The Tempest is that manifestation when the Veil that separates both planes is ruptured and travel between both can be done. The Samoharo dreamwalking is similar in that aspect.

The communion: the main goal of the freefolk religion is for its adherents to be in communion with the world around them so when they die, they go to the spiritual plane of the world, joining a network of memories that can be accessed through the Tempest and said plane.

The Long Moon: the mysterious object that orbits around Theia in conjunction with its moon. The freefolk believe that their erratic apparitions are omens from the Eight warning freefolk of events of magnitude.

The religious leaders of the freefolk are shamans that claim to commute with the world or reality itself through the use of special powder, storytelling, and riddles.

Lost beliefs.

The beliefs of the Akeleth and the Montoc Dragons:  Little is known about the religious beliefs of the Montoc Dragons or the Akeleth. It is plausible, based on the few records left behind in the Grasslands that they shared beliefs about the Great Consciousness of the Universe that begotten them. The Montoc Dragons claimed to be born from the stars themselves, while the akeleth apparently believed to be stars themselves in mortal form. Both mention the struggles against the Great Enemy, the Original Sin or mistake born from the same event that created the Universe.

Some scholars believe that the ancient religion that both species followed was the source for the rest of the faiths in Theia.  Each species -or individual groups- took elements that fitted their vision of the universe. This discussion comes from the fact that higher and lower dimensions are not only shared between all religions in the world, they share the same names and experimental proof that they exist. They are called Last Heaven and Infinity Pits. They are real and people have glimpsed them through history. The most common version is when an ‘incursion’ occurs. An incursion is when a creature from the Pits, usually through magick, materializes into the world to unleash havoc. Each religion and science as well have found ways to deal with them, with more or less success. But they all agree that the spiritual plane, Heaven, and Hell exist, even if no one can be sure what they actually are.

 

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 3: Human Religions.

For Part 1: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

For Part 2: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

 

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The religions mentioned here are the current, modern ones and with more adherents. Or the one that has caused more mayhem through time. Others have existed, long gone or with little clusters over the populated world.

Universe’s Consciousness or Universality: The mainstream, modern religion in most human territories, particularly in Ionis and the Free Alliance. It has several branches and temples all over the world. Their core belief is that mankind can aspire to be one with the Universe Consciousness through acts that improve the Universe’s plan. Universality preaches that being parts of the legacy of the Universe it is the duty of a person to help others and create a balance of good acts that counter the evil or corrupt acts of others, often promoted by the Discord, the enemy of the Universe and source of evil. It preaches what it is called RAKs or ‘random acts of kindness’ to balance the scale. This balancing of the scales has the aim of cleansing the soul of the person so it can rejoin the Universe after learning about the reality. The main teachings were developed by the Wise Students, twelve followers of the two Great Masters that taught humanity about the universe in the past.  While the actual teachings of the Great Masters are lost to time, it is considered that the teachings of the Wise students codify enough of them. It is rumored that one of the Master later crossed the Core Ocean and developed the Kamisava of the Kuni, making it a distant relative.

The two mainstream versions of Universality are Gaian and Cosmo. Gain focuses their teaching in taking care of the planet where humankind lives, talking about some mysterious past that cost humanity’s their first world or paradise. This is the branch that has been more influenced by the Paths of the samoharo. Cosmo takes a more orthodox approach of balancing the scales in a general sense. Some scholars see a parallel between the Wise Students and the Eight of the freefolk. Other scholars conflagrate them with the so-called ‘Founding Fathers’, a mythological group that led humanity from their original land into Theia and from which most human nations arose.

The Kamisava of Kuni Empire: the official religion of Kuni Empire and the second most organized in the world. Similar to Universality in a few core concepts, the Kamisava preaches that living beings are already part of the universe and thus attaining ‘godhood’ is possible. In fact, they believe that some lesser gods walk among them as we speak. In ancient times, when the so-called ‘Mortal Gods’ -demigods of unclear origin- ruled Theia and mortals rebelled against them with the help of the akeleth, the Mortal Gods of the Kuni Empire sided with mortals. As such it is rumored that a few ones –including the Empress- live hidden lives with them. The most famous of such gods is the folk hero Storm God that lives in the God’s Eye volcano right in the middle of the Auris Gulf. Kamisava is also the religion with a more open approach to dealing with ‘incursions’, through the ‘demonhunters’*, warrior-priest that walk the land destroying any creature from or influenced by the Infinity Pits. Kamisava also believes in reincarnation although unlike Universality, in what one can reincarnate is more varied, the ‘Wheel of purification’. As result, they are more prone to carry out rites of the animistic kind as ancestors can exist as any part of nature, given that souls are already part of the universe and need only to be purified. There has been some overlap between Kamisava and the Paths of the stargazers due to the proximity between the Empire and the Hegemony.

The Straits’s religion: it doesn’t have an official name as in theory is a branch of Universality, given that the region was originally colonized by people from Ionis. However it is a very syncretic religion that adds elements from the Kamisava –the reverence to ancestors- and the Paths of the stargazers –mainly the dreamwalking-  and even the Tempest concept of the freefolk religion and mixes it with a peculiar outlook of the death –a few people from the Straits have the ability of ghostsighting- that makes them celebrate it during the days of the year when the Tempest manifest. Their approach to life and death mostly comes from the fact that the Straits are a dangerous place to live –due the extreme weather and the proximity to the Wastelands.

Assuran religion: in old times was one of the most important human religions. Now it is only followed by the inhabitants of the Western Wastelands and the Cursed City of Meteora. At its apogee, it was highly organized, with thousands of warlock priests carrying out rites in front of multitudes. It was polytheistic in structure and many of its deities have been compared to what other religions call creature from the Infinity Pits but the Assuran called the Great Gods. Major gods include the Crawling Chaos and the Golden King while minor ones included the Bestial and the Narsubanipal. It was the main human religion that granted its followers magick channeling abilities through the use of drugs such as the murcana. At some point in history, its priests called on a sacred war against the freefolk that caused a transcontinental war, which ended with the fall of the Empire from which Meteora was capital and transforming its territory in a wasteland full of buried cities, unforgiving deserts and mutated beings. Outside the wastelands, the religion is found in small clusters of cultists such as the Brotherhood of Gadol or the Cult of the Deep God in the catacombs beneath Portis.

Other humans beliefs: There are other religions, such as those from the people of the Chains across the Core Ocean or the strange animistic religion of the people from the Grasslands or the lost religion of the Iskandar, however, those will be explored in another entry under minority religions further down the road.

Interesting fact(s): in Universality, the Universe or the consciousness that created it and maintains it is referred as ‘Her’, ‘Mother’ or ‘Kaana’ and considers it an actual being. It also preaches reincarnation and rebirth into a second or third human life as a way to balance the scales across ages.

*Universality has their own version of clerical exorcists, but they usually work undercover rather than in the open as demonhunters and usually are less ‘physical’ in combat.

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

For Part 1: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

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The samoharo, secretive as they are, live their reptilian lives mostly within the territory of the southwestern continent of Genis, naming their land ‘The Hegemony’. Few is know of their religious beliefs, but the generalities can be talked about.

Paths of the stargazers: the main religion (but not the only one) of the Samoharo Hegemony. It is deeply entwined with the magical beliefs of the samoharo and as such, their religious caste is as well their main –if not only- magical practitioners. It combines aspects of their more tribal customs such as pathfinding, dreamwalking and stargazing with the teachings of that who they call ‘The Prophet’ that in a far flung past united both samoharo races in a single nation in order to avoid extinction. Samoharos believe that they came from the stars, like the dragons before them and their destiny is to join the universe and the stars.

The prophet they follow, ‘the Child of the Wind’, also known as the ‘Feathered Dragon’ taught them the ‘Paths’, mostly composed of solidarity, honor and patience and communion with the planet as they see taking care of Theia (or any other planet) as part of the Path to reunite with the stars. Stars then take the role of deities, the ‘godstars’, of which the samoharo have several that represent certain aspects of time and space and thus have their own Path, explained by the Prophet. Some variants of the Paths found within the Hegemony practice bloodletting sacrifices -as in an individual offering a few drops of their blood to a particular star- as to empower certain spells.

Each samoharo tribe or clan tends to follow a particular Path of a godstar, each representing an element of nature. However, the Paths are flexible and individuals are welcomed to follow more than one. The Path or combinations of them tend to affect life’s outlook of a particular individual.

The Windstar or Star of the Morning: mostly followed by the royal clan, teaches flexibility, wisdom, and leadership.

The Rainstar: teaches foresight, healing, and cleansing.

The Firestar or Sun: teaches honor, combat prowess, and personal improvement. Most warriors tend to follow this path.

The Grassstar: teaches the value of handcraftsmanship, taking care of the land, fertility, and family.

The Ghoststar: teaches dreamwalking, lore keeping, respect to the death, the ancestors and the spirit plane. Most priests follow this path, mixed with the one of the Rainstar.

Cult of the Smoking Mirror: samoharos are by nature very secretive and reclusive, thus there is little information on what this religion practices, it is believed that most militaristic samoharo follow it, believing that blood sacrifices will awaken some hidden power within the samoharo genetic code. It is said to be taught on the principles stated by the half-brother of the Child of the Wind and a godstar by himself by the name of the Mirrorstar. It started as a Path unto itself, but a schism separated it and made it a secret cult.

Interesting fact(s): The Paths have influenced the religious beliefs of the humans living in the Straits, specifically the Ghoststar path, evolving in a celebration of the death.

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

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Talking about faith is always a tricky proposition, even if we are talking about fictional settings. However, I think that how a society relates to the greater mysteries of their world is a key element of world building because it affects how a character might react to certain events.

In the Tempest Blades universe, usually, there is little mention of religions and spiritual faiths, despite being a constant mention of a particular goddess. Even characters that don’t follow her cult mention her, but that is because she has been quite active in history. Other than her and perhaps the beliefs of fringe groups such as those sponsoring the villains, religion plays little to no role on how my characters act. There is a reason for that.

In most parts of Theia, religious beliefs tend to be a personal matter rather than something bigger. Religion is thus one of many defining characteristics but not a major one. There are, of course, organized religions and faiths. But in a world where magic can be used, where there are verified accounts of ‘demons’ & gods’, and certain degree of certainty about the existence of Hell & Heaven, religion takes a different role: instead of being used to explain random phenomena, it is used as a mean to find the place of a person of the universe or conversely, the relationship between a person and the universe. It doesn’t mean it has been always like that, in the past religious groups had a bigger impact in life, remnants of them can be seen in groups such as the Sisters of Mercy. However, by the time the stories take place, religion has become what I said, something more personal, even if a given person belongs to a particular congregation.

What defined the way a particular region or civilization of Theia developed a faith and later a religion depends on of a few factors: their ‘arrival myth’ & species they belong*, their relationship with the precursors known as akeleths**, how they fared during the age of the ‘mortal gods’*** and a few other factors as cultural mores, extradimensional incursions and the use of magic. In the following weeks, I will briefly explain a few of the major beliefs in Theia.

For Part 2: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

For Part 3: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 3: Human Religions.

For Part 4: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 4: Freefolk religion & lost beliefs.

 

*Unlike our world, most of the species have arrival myths on par of creation myths. That is, along their myths on how the universe came to be, they have (and it plays a bigger role in certain sectors) an arrival myth that explains how that particular race got to be in Theia, as most recognize or at least begrudgingly suspect that none originated on the planet, but instead were transported there somehow, probably by the akeleth aeons ago.

**The akeleths (more on them in another post), are the mysterious precursor race that inhabited Theia in times beyond recording. It’s  fact they existed because their ruins still pepper the surface of the planet and some of the current technology the species have is derived from it. Freefolk believe they are as the forefathers, almost lesser gods related to their main Eight deities, with their ruins being sacred places for them; while humans find them an inscrutable mystery to be solved -especially when it comes to appropriate their technology-. Samoharos for their part find them strange and on par of the oldest beings in the universe.

*** The mortal gods is an age when certain individuals, probably demigods born from the younger species and the akeleth or the Eight of the freefolk, with the aim of protecting the younger species at the Dawn Age. However most became corrupted and regular mortals, helped by the Montoc Dragons and a few good Mortal Gods, hunted and killed them. The only mortal gods rumored to still be around -mostly inside Kuni territory- are the Storm God, the Shadowbreaker, the Twins of the Forge and the Makin.

Musical themes for Tempest Blades. Pt. 1

As I’m finishing the 7th draft of Tempest Blades to hopefully get it ready for querying agents, I got to reflect what kind of music would fit my book. Truth be told, I have used certain songs to write certain scenes or to develop characters. Let’s say I have a soundtrack list of songs I would like to use for the hypothetical film feature. Now, this is not the final list, as there are themes that are still missing. But these songs really helped me nail particular bits of the story. Most of my main cast has two themes (or will have). And this is an eclectic list so bear with me.

Character themes:

Fionn’s 1st Theme:

Gaby’s 1st theme:

Alex’s 1st theme:

Sam’s 1st theme:

Sid’s 1st theme / The Figaro:

Harland’s 1st Theme:

Scene themes:

Opening Chapter / Heroic Resolve (I’m gonna kick your sorry ass):

The Freefolk theme (for anything related to them, the Maze or magic in general)

Training Scenes:

Big Damn Heroes:

The Final Duel:

Closing moments / Credits:

 

The Montoc Dragons

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 “The Montoc Dragons.”

In ages before, dragons were common, as diverse as the species of toads and frogs or as different as human, freefolk and samoharo. There were the smaller ones from ponds, of course. There were those too that gnaw at the innards of the world, in search of treasures to use as nests. They roamed fields and forests alike, dragons of lesser size, but no less impressive when they unfolded their wings and took to the skies from where their forefathers came.

But the most impressive ones were those born out of a star’s heart, in the vast expanses of the Montoc region beyond our constellations, creatures that descended upon our world to watch over the younger races as older brothers. Or so it says in the Statues of the Montoc Dragons.

Blessed were those in foreign lands that managed to bear witness of those majestic dragons, crossing the oceans and dancing feverish amidst magical chants of the Great Will inspiration, around storms or mountains; as the members of such prodigious race were scarce remnants of wisdom that choose to stay on the fertile land of Theia, waiting for more of them to be born out of the dying stars were the Akeleth tended them, or leaving towards the realms beyond imagination that now they rule. Or so they say, the Statues of the Montoc Dragons.

No, dragons have not gone extinct, they just moved out into a realm of the mind where their mythic figure can surge the skies, leaving us with a few portentous memories. Or so they say, the Montoc Dragons.”

Magic Systems in my stories

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A considerable part of most if not all fantasy stories and science fantasy is magic. Whichever the form it takes, magic is part of the fabric of reality of the world where the story takes place. And usually magic takes the forms of ‘systems’, depending on how the author feels or believes that magic should work in their universe. Magic can be subtle like in Tolkien’s Middle Earth & Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or can be pretty much weaponized like in Slayers or Final Fantasy. Some authors like Terry Pratchett went about equating magic with nuclear physics (which in my mind makes perfect sense, you will see why).

The most common form of magic used as well for role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons is the Vancian System, created by Jack Vance, author of the Dying Earth novels. Other systems are based on the equivalent exchange like in Full Metal Alchemist, drawing mana from the world (a few of the Final Fantasy games). TV Tropes has a decent summary of such systems here & here (the usual warning about getting stuck into endless hours of web surfing at TV Tropes apply).

Now, for my tow main universes where magic is part of the setting, I created two different systems, one more detailed than the other, given the nature of the stories, but more or less coming from the same ideas. I will start with the easiest one (and the one it has already seen the light, published in Tales of Wonder *shameless plug on my own website*).

The Magic in Kaana

Full disclaimer: Kaana as such is the proposed first chapter of a full-length novel I have in mind. Thus this system is liable to evolve a bit more. This part of the post has some spoilers for the story.

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Kaana is a science fantasy story taking place in the really distant future (close to the entropic death of the universe) in what is basically a supermassive Dyson sphere where the last survivors of the life in the universe struggle to find a way to escape inevitable doom.  Part of the world includes a group of beings named the ‘worldformers’ of which main characters Kaana and Quetz form a part. They are the magic users of the setting, using their magic to coax dead land into fertile one to grow food. Their magic could be described as ‘quantum alchemic elemental manipulation’ and of both systems described here, is the ‘least’ magical.

How does it work? Well, a worldformer has, since birth, special grafts inside their bodies that channel what they call ‘prana’: an elementary energy deep seated within the quantum realm and that mystics on Lost Earth called the blood of the universe. It’s something akin to using zero point energy or the vibration coming from quantum strings as the power source. Once they draw enough prana from the world around, they can order the matter at the quantum level to take any form or shape they wish, from dust to lava or from moisture to ice. Now to do so, the worldformer not only needs energy but a clear concept in their mind to order the matter around. Some of the grafts are embedded in their neurological system and act as processors to handle the translation from concept to transmutation. For simpler things, the process is tiring but easy. For bigger things, the process is more energy consuming and the calculations more complicated.

A worldformer can basically reshape the world around as they wish, providing they have the training and the endurance to do so. Since they are not creating something from nothing, but actually taking existent matter and transmuting it into something, there is no reality backlash nor paradoxes. Of course changing an element into another require a lot of prana.

The holy grail for worldformers has been the creation of auto sustainable energy like that of a star (which os part of the plot of the story, seriously, go and read it). It not only needs more prana than usual since it involves manipulating gravity as well but a higher computational power and more important, the key concept. This is where guardians like Aditi enter the picture: when they merge with a worldformer of the right kind, they can show the concept, make the calculations and draw massive amounts of prana and help the worldformer to recreate a singularity in miniature. However, the merging process and the actual transmutation is really painful and many have died trying it.

Pretty straighforward uh?

The Magic on Tempest Blades

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“Are you allergic to peanuts?” Alex asked.

“No silly. To magick energy,” Sam replied laughing.

This si the dialogue that kickstarts an explanation of how magic or magick with a ‘k’ is called in the Tempest Blades universe works. Of both systems this is the one I have been working the longer, probably since my first story in my teenagehood and is influenced by an old book on the history of magic that draws a lot from the treaties of Eliphas Levi, and ‘A Brief Story of Time’ by Stephen Hawking, both of which I read when I was a kid (have I told you that my reading choices during my childhood weren’t very common?).

Magick works like this: there is a fifth elemental force, akin to gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear force. This force has a particle, the ‘thaum’ that seems to be related to the axion of the dark matter, it seems to be generated by the interaction of stars and singularities with space-time, flows freely in ley lines across planets, specially inhabited ones and is basically part of the catalogue of dark matter particles that explain why the universe is the way it is.  It’s even related to the form of energy that powers mass transportation withing Theia, the planet where Tempest Blades takes place. Magick force thus forms part of the very fabric of reality and can be used to shape by strong users, providing they can deal with a few caveats.

As anything related to energy, you need a medium to conduct magick, be it a staff, a crystal or your own body. Then you focus the energy and think on a mathematical equation simplified in spell form and voilá, you created a magic effect. Sounds easy, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t.

For starters, the thaum acts like radiation, with similar ‘properties’. While it is not dangerous for regular bodies, in great quantities tends to warp reality and anything within it, including the bodies of those trying to use it. Hence the comment of allergies. In Theia, there is a species of near-humans, named the freefolk, that are naturally attuned to this radiation field and can withstand it longer than humans. Their bodies can act as natural conducts, but the longer they use magick, the longer its energies mutate their bodies, from something simpler as hair color or animal features to… well really major changes. Usually, the transformation last for a few hours, days, maybe a month, depending on the intensity of the spell. But sometimes the changes get permanent and alter the genetic makeup of the freefolk and those changes get passed into their children. There were documented severe cases when they end transformed into metallic statues or simply exploded.

Explosions are a common feature, even with talismans that help with the energy.

Humans can do magick as well, but it takes longer preparations as they don’t have the gift from birth, they have to basically build it up from scratch through constant contact with magic.

Now, if magick acts as a radiation field, it should follow the same rules of energy conservation, which means that you can’t create neither destroy energy or matter or reality, just change it. Thus, as my characters point, in the narration, there is not such thing as a disintegratioInstead. Instead it is actually just a teleportation spell used in a very creative way,” Sam smiled wickedly. “Except that you don’t teleport the whole subject at the same time to the same place.

Bottomline, a magick user is warping reality using high energies while they brain is calculating thousands of quantum states through a spell. Magick in my setting is a half sister of quantum mechanics.

And like quantum mechanics, magick has some ground rules deduced after many centuries of experimentation (and explosions). Magick works in rules of three: Three types of magic, three types of levels and three types of characteristics.

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Magick scheme as drawn and explained by Samantha Ambers-Estel.  Tempest Blades: The withered king.

Three types of magick:

Divine magic, the one that the believers of a faith use by asking boons from the Spirits Above, deities and nature. Summonings as well as some elemental and healing magic fit here. This magic calls upon the power of someone else through the power of faith and thus is ‘easier’ to do and requires less energy, but requires the right incantations and sometimes the user ends owing a debt to the spirits.

Natural magic, the one that draws from the magic field of the planet using spells or raw power. Most elemental magic, illusions, mirages, curses, attacks, defenses and reality warping fit here. Around 80% of the spells enter here. To use it you have to be attuned to the magick field or know the right procedures and have the willpower to control it. It’s the hardest way to do magick because it comes from the inner connection of the person to the world.

Daemonology (also known as Infinity pit magic). That’s self-explanatory. Similar to the Divine magick but works around deals done with the beings that inhabit the Infinity Pitt (Theia’s Hell). As it is easier to do (even more compared to Divine) and has faster results, it tends to be quite addictive, dragging the soul of the user more and more into the clutches of beings like the Pale King, the Crawling Chaos or the Dreaming Priest.

Levels:

First level (Cantrips): the entry level so to speak, especially for humans and freefolk without the natural inclination for magick. It requires massive preparations and rituals, study and most often than not, objects of power to focus the energy. A wizard in this level can do as many spells they have learned and if they have the raw materials (if required) to do so.

Second level (Incantations): the wizard internalizes the knowledge and ability required for a spell and draws directly the energy from the world and into them, using their body as the conduit and through words and gestures to cast the spell. The number of spells available to a wizard depends on their memory, training, and skills. This is the upper level for most wizards and the natural one for the freefolk of mature age. Some freefolk tribes and schools such as Ravenstone have even developed a form of hand to hand combat that combines movements from titanfight and kuni martial arts among others with casting gestures. The best combat wizard in this style earns the title of ‘Dragonking’ and is considered a leader and protector for most freefolk. This is also the level where more genetic mutations take place due to the use of the body itself as a conduit for the energy. Thus even if a wizard reaches this level, they will use a pendant or another item to help themselves and ease the strain on their bodies,

Third level (Visualizations): the highest level possible and the most difficult to achieve. In it, the wizard has become so adept at commuting with magick energies and directing them that just by visualizing something the change to reality happens. Wizards on this level still use helpers such as pendants, staffs or small gestures to focus their minds into their actions. To cast a spell, besides the energy expediture, the wizard’s mind must be able to understand, at least at an instictive level the nature of reality and the inner works of the spell. Thus if a wizard has to achieve this level, they have to study for decades or have great inner power, maybe both. This is the kind of magick that the akeleth taught to the first freefolk at the Dawn Ages at the behest of the Trickster Goddess. Only a handful since then have achieved such level. The most memorable ones have been Queen Khary of the Freefold during the Hero Age; the wizard Mekiri, who is the current custodian of the Maze and the fabled Ravenhall library and a rumored current student at Ravenstone.

True Spell (Special): Among the freefolk it is said that you can get on ‘True Spell’ when you reach the third level. This spell becomes part of your existence and can be cast almost at any time and without any restriction beyond the energy required to do so. However the wizard cannot choose the spell, but it is the other way: the spell choose them based on their own true nature, a reflection of their personality and/or place in reality.

Characteristics:

Spells have three main characteristics, derived from their interaction with space-time.

Range: most spells can cover only a determined area, a circle around the wizard. The larger the range, the more energy it requires to keep it’s strength and coherence.

Duration: most spells have a determined half-life, meaning that after a while they dissipate, once the wizard ceases to focus on them. The rate of energy consumption is proportional to the duration of the spell. In general, spells don’t last beyond a few minutes, perhaps a few hours. There are exceptions of course.

Intensity: also known as the ‘punch’ that a spell carries. It is the strength which the spell has to carry its purpose (e.g. the temperature achieved by a fireball and the explosion damage in its wake). The energy expenditure is exponential to the intensity of the spell.

A wizard can by general rule only focus on one, maybe two of those characteristics at a given time, even if they have reached Third Level. Only the aforementioned Queen Khary and Mekiri the Great, the akeleth and some Montoc Dragons were or are known to manage the three of them for shorter periods of time.

A regular spell at must last a few hours has a range of no more than thirty meters and the more intense is, the more explosive the backlash is. Reality doesn’t like being pulled around. Exceptions to these characteristics exist of course. Curses can last for ages, as they drain energy from its victims/places/objects. Teleportation spells do exist, but while the object being teleported remains at its new destination after the energy dispells, they only work if the caster has clear line of sight or clear image of the object and its destination (robbing a bank with one is possible, but most vaults have counterspells and other measures to avoid that). Disintegration spells are just randomized effect teleportation spells. The only know spells that have lasted for centuries are the ‘Sweet Oblivion’ spells cast by Queen Khary that consumed most magick energy of the planet for centuries to protect it from incursions and the spells involved in the creation of the Maze, Ravenhall and Ravenstone.

Dispelling spells by non-wizards is possible only if the subject has a stronger willpower (as it would work in conjunction with reality asserting itself), rare mutations or certain weapons such as the Tempest Blades or a few of the ‘god-killing’ weapons forged by the twins or the blizzard walkers during the earlier ages.

Magick as this is hard to use in deep space, as magick concentrates on planets with life and stars being the original source. Given the distances between stars and planets in the interstellar void, even with dark energy around the wizards seem to have problems keeping the spells characteristics coherent. Hence why there are few freefolk enlisted in the United Space Program. However earlier experiments within the stringspeed (as described here, have shown weird effects to the most common effects of a spell).

The above described is the most well-studied magick system on Theia. It doesn’t account for the shujenga of the demonhunters from the Kuni Empire (although it works under the same principles), the shamanism of a few errant tribes, some less known magickal creatures or the Samoharo.

Regarding this last one mention, the Samoharo’s magick is barely known because of their usual secrecy, however, a few principles are known given that they have been imitated by people from the Straits and the Colonies. Their magick is known as ‘blood magic’, due to the use of it as fuel, and incorporates elements of metamorphosis, transfiguration, dreamwalking and elemental control. The actual rituals are unknown but the use of ointments seems to be common.

Well, I just hope you have enjoyed this talk about the worldbuilding of my stories. Thanks for reading. Comments are welcome.