The Rooks of Avrale

It is popular to think of Avrale in terms of Rooks; the granted duchies of the nation exemplified by towers that give them their name, and by some boasts are the origin of the shape of the piece in Chess, and not the other way around.  These however do not fully describe all of the regions of Avrale, but we will begin here:

Wesrook, and Seaperch:

The city of Wesrook, and the Duke (currently Duke Regent) command most of the coastal expanse of Avrale from the sheltered bay of Wesrook Harbor.  This includes a number of windward villages along the ocean steps.  Most notably Seaperch, a prosperous gold mining town seven miles north of the city proper.

The wealth of Wesrook, between seagoing trade, gold, and fisheries makes it an economic force to be reckoned with within Avrale and even the wider world.  Wesrook however is a fractious city, divided between the uncommonly comfortable liberal commoners, and the aristocratic often Clarion upperclass.  Three times in the past two centuries the Duke Proper has chosen to serve as Knight Commander of the King’s guard at Broken Hill, rather than reign over the region, leaving the seat to his brother, while retaining inheritance for his son.

South Rook:

The city and tower are situated near the center of an ancient caldera that formed vast open flatlands amidst the security of high mountains.  The unique geologic history of this region, and terrain has created some of the most fertile stable farmland of the world.  Well drained soil wicks away excesses of ample rain through subterranean lava tubes, and funnels it out the southern cliffs in spring falls that become the northern tributary of the Niven River.

South Rook is tightly controlled by its Duke and Barons.  The larger, and more reliable of the three major breadbaskets of Avrale, South Rook holds incredible sway of the politics of the nation, more so even than Wesrook.  While South Rook is marginally less wealthy on the whole than Wesrook, the aristocracy has kept tight hold on that wealth, and over the past few centuries become strict Clarion adherents, all but forcing the faith upon the commoners.

This has caused passing, but never volatile political strife between South Rook and the Midrook Dynasty, and quietly held bad blood over the Council of Mordove’s choice to recognize the young heir of Midrook as the future King, having pulled away the highly gifted eldest son of the reigning duke of the day.


Almost another country, the vales of Nohrook have been separated from central Avrale several times over the centuries as Osyrean armies have taken the lowlands between the main passes.  The mountainous rocky terrain of this region is none the less rich with game, and wild edible plants to have maintained numerous villages, and other outposts.  The influential Lansly family almost holds more sway over Nohrook than the duke of the region, who trusts the Lanslys implicitly as his representatives at court, and keeps to himself in the far north.

Anders, Ashrook, and the North:

The rolling prairies tucked between Midrook and Nohrook are vast, and though held by Avrale in the centuries since the Dragon War, historically have been conquered many times by the armies of Osyrae.  At the time of the Dragon War the region was in the command of a Northerner given the title Duke Ashton of Ashrook, and barracks in the city of Anders expanded to form the castle of Ashrook.  This lasted a scarce fifteen years before the Dragon War devastated Ashrook, and left only the Duke himself, severing all of his heirs.

After the war the surviving Duke Ashton wed a common woman from the farmland where he grew up.  He split his assigned lands between her son, and the people of the north.  The sitting Queen Regent accepted this disposition, and her young grandson did as well.  The north has been a democratic region with an elected representative ever since.  The Ashtons quietly have run the region, but always remained out of the limelight, propping up the elected representatives to court instead.  It is rarely emblazoned, but known well through the north.  An Ashton always returns.  The meaning is a mater for debate.

East Rook:

The lonely tower of East Rook sits on the border of Helm.  It overlooks the main road from a high hill.  East Rook is held by an Adorned Knighthood instead of a Duke, and the village is a quiet out of the way place to live.


Once the largest and richest city of Avrale, Midrook has never fully recovered from the Dragon War.  The city remains bisected by an obsidian scar three centuries later.  The Tower of Midrook sits at the west end of the once proud wall, and has been held by cousins of the reigning line since the Midrook dynasty took the throne after the death of several (some brief) former kings in the war.

The Long Valley:

Up from the lowland of Brokhal is a broad well cultivated valley that reaches all the way to the cliffs above Wesrook, and the Serpents spine, named for how the west most ridge of these mountains look.  The Long Valley is traditionally held by the crown, and managed by one or more barons.

Brokhal and Broken Hill:

By land area Brokhal is one of the larger cities in the western world, and the capital of Avrale.  It is however none the less considered a village for is sprawling, sparse density, and only marginal population of less than two thousand.

Broken Hill is the castle of the crown, and a proud bastion that sits high above the valley of Brokhal.  It is however isolated, with a three mile winding forested road connecting it to the village bellow.


The orchards of Highvale have been there since before record, though they were nearly lost during the Dragon War.  The Queen Regent Gwenevere, inspired by the writings of Sylvia Grey, and fearful of the growing influence of Clarion adherents invited a branch of the Lycian Order to take up the land, and build a cloister there to restore the orchards, and the almost abandoned village.

Highvale village has become a hotbed of conflict in Avrale between Clarions, and the reclusive Lycians who stick to their orchards, or travel elsewhere in Avrale, subverting Clarion attempts to contain them.

Silver Creek:

Deep beneath the glaciers of mount Saeah an unusual mining town stands defiant in the face of the grinding power of a glacier that gave Silver Creek its name.  Resourceful mages melted a path through the glacier till they found the source of the silver flakes.  The deep exposed veins have made Silver Creek a huge source of wealth for the crown which holds both Midrook and Broken Hill, putting Silver Creek clearly in their purview.

High Land and Lost Vales:

The endless branching mountains, foothills, and valleys of Avrale are filled with hidden alcoves that keep much to themselves.  Notably a large but barely accessible village mountain lake in the south eastern mountains.  All of these swear their allegiance to the crown, but most are too sparse, or out of the way to demand taxes from, or provide much service.  This creates a situation of live and let be between all parties.


Not a part of Avrale, but of worth mentioning the vast island nation of Carth lies across a narrow straight from mainland Avrale.  Carth has had good relations, and open trade with Wesrook for nearly a thousand years.  They have on the other side had endless struggles with Osyrae, though even at the height of the Dragon War went unconquered, in part because they were not deemed strategically important.

Carth never officially joined the Empire, and has been ruled by the same royal line for eight hundred years.  They have several times struggled to maintain their population, the rugged forested terrain of their island making isolated tribes work to maintain intermarriage, and their gene pool.  Carth petitioned for a seat on the Council in the year 400 E.R, and was granted a provisional one, which has since fallen vacant.

The Noble Ranks:

The ranks of Avrale are fairly common through the rest of the world, and so worth addressing, though there are several other hierarchies that may be considered elsewhere.

Monarch and Consort
With rare exception the Queen or in past eras sometimes King is second only to to the reigning Monarch, sitting in their stead, or providing a softer side to their stern command.  These powers are enumerated in fact, but most often ceremonial in practice.

Duke, Duchess, and Duchies
The regional rulers of Avrale, and all have some often arbitrary seeming position in line for the throne.  All deeply complicated by intermarriage, lost favor, deviations from the default heir at the declaration of a sitting king or queen.  It is considered good form to forget how far or near one is from the throne by the numbers, since it all can change.  The actual duchies are referred to as Rooks by tradition, though the word duchies gets some use around granting of title, or land, as it is more traditional through international affairs that Avrale has binding treaties governing.

Knight Sire

There are three ranks of Knight in Avrale, two heritable.  All are given the same deference as a rule, and the full titles are rarely used, and internal hierarchies of command preferred in theory.  Though this internal hierarchy often matches the larger one.  Knight Sire is the automatic rank of the younger brother of a sitting Duke, though it is available to that Duke at their preference, leaving their younger sibling the sitting Duke or Duchess Regent.

Knight Adorned

Adorned knights hold a heritable position granted in favor to a family line that has shown a reliable, and honorable role in the nation.  This heritance comes at a price, and a son must offer himself to the title in life service to the army to maintain the line.  A Knight Adorned or their ancestor is granted the title in a conventional knighting ceremony by a sitting monarch.  Unlike Knights Unadorned who may be granted their role by Dukes or Knight Sires for utilitarian purpose.

Of note the Knights of the Empire, are Knights Adorned, but of more equivalent rank to a Knight Sire in theory, if not in practice.  Many Knights of the Empire however offer such service to the lords of various lands as to be Adorned again, and recognized properly within the hierarchy of a lands military.  The phrases “twice Adorned,” and “trice Adorned” are sometimes used.  Indicating both the original Imperial Knighthood, and the more regional one(s).  The Mark of the Compass Rose, is the primary element of the crest of Dame Roscae and her descendants, purportedly styled for her uncommon valor in the years after the Empire’s fall, having been Adorned by no less than four nations, in addition to her inherited adornment.  Her descendants often style themselves down, refusing to take their full rank until they feel they have in some small way lived up to the legacy.

Knight Unadorned

Most often simply Knight is the rank that fills out the mid level of military command.  These Knights are granted their position by Dukes, or Knight Sires.  It is utilitarian, and given much less respect than the higher knights.


Barons are structurally curious.  They outrank all Knights in civil maters, and are bellow all knights in military or law enforcement ones.  Barons may rise through any avenue of commerce through which they become land managers for royalty, or hold substantial land in their own right directly beneath the monarchy.  They may also be granted these lands, circumventing any gradual rise.  The position is heritable if the lands are held beneath the monarchy, or if accepted by the lower nobles in charge.  The honorary sometimes outlives the functional role, particularly for those wealthy enough to hold sway without land.  Strictly a Baron without land is a “Low Baron,” by legal definition, but it is never spoken or written.  The honor either sticks, or it doesn’t.  One could, in theory, get away with using it as a “safe” slight where technically accurate, but it would still be considered terribly risqué, which may not always win your favor.


The City of Mordove


No one is sure precisely how Mordove was founded, or when.  There are mentions of strong stone walls in the first records to be found in ancient Palentian.  They took the city despite its defenses, and kept it as an outpost protecting against any potential Anderhale incursion several decades before the Lycian genocide.  The conquest of Lycia redoubled the importance of this outpost, which fell to Anderhale forces ten years before the Lycian rebellion retook their nation.

Ancient Mordove was sacked three times during the following decade as the three nations fought over the strategically important position.  It was ultimately abandoned by Corinthian forces after the fall of the Anderhale capitol, as Corinth recalled troops to help hold a tenuous grasp on the conquered nation.

Palentine retook the abandoned outpost, and built a new set of walls that would later outline the shape of the main academy.  Mordove went unassailed for a decade, and the general holding it refused to accept initial introduction into Corinthia when southern Palentine joined.  This meant Mordove operated as a city state for another decade, and remained an independent nation state when joining the empire under the Lord General’s successor.  This title of Lord General would persist until the treaty of Mordove restructured the city state to function more as a capital, and less as an independent body.

By the third decade of Corinth’s reign Mordove had already become a challenger to the royal academy.  The original central fortress was completely subsumed by the institution, and spilled into the surrounding city.  The main royal academy would however continue to outshine it until the destruction of Corinthia during the dragon war.

As the most renowned surviving institution of higher learning in the post war world, Mordove was the natural place to found the Council.  Representatives of all the nations of the former Empire were called to write, and ratify the Treaty of Mordove.  The articles of which helped enshrine the next few centuries of relative peace.  One of the critical articles called for the encouraging of migration of gifted to Mordove.  This was done in a number of ways, from political pressure, to stipends for gifted residents based on the strength of their aura.  Further support was given to gifted women who bore and raised gifted children.

Mordove was the place to be if one sought power or prominence in the post imperial world.  Mages were banned from military and governing positions in most lands, with a few grandfathered in exceptions for some royal lines.  A limited number of positions as caravan mages, and mercenaries were all that were left for the conventional battle mage.  Enchantment became an over saturated market, and many competent mages found themselves to be lack luster enchanters.

This did lead to a number of renegade mages forming bands of brigands, a pattern which continues into the modern era.  All together though, most mages are happy to seek out Mordove, and find a place, and a role.  Councils, sub-councils, instruction, raising more gifted youth.  Bulk enchantments for distribution by caravan where needed.  Fortune telling a perennial niche.  More mundane craftsmanship flourished, often refined with magic training.


The city of Mordove is the largest contiguous city on Thaea with a population of nearly a million residents, and a disproportionate gifted population of over thirty percent.  More than a fifth of its residents are at least part time students, instructors, or support staff of the Academy.  Fully a third are in the direct employ of the city for upkeep, maintenance, construction, and other public services.  The overlap between these two catagorise is harder to parse.

City government is primarily managed by seven elected Ministers who represent the physical areas of the city, and eight appointed Councilors from the Low-Council who represent broader reaching concerns and disciplines.  One of these is elected by the group as Chancellor, who in turn technically answers to the sitting Archmage, but the two historically stay out of each-other’s business.

The Archmage is a mostly honorary position granted to an elder council member, and requiring their replacement as sitting council member.  The Archmage does however have a number of enumerated functional powers in directing council business, and may vote in the event of a tie, or abstain, leaving a deadlock, and direct business on.  The Archmage may be drawn from Provisional Seats, and in fact three of the past ten Archmages have been enchanters, and one Diviner.  The Archmage may also refuse the post, forcing another vote. This has happened five times in three hundred years.  The Archmage is also the de facto head of the Academy, but many have appointed all major duties to a deputy administrator.

The Actual Treaty:

The Treaty of Mordove is one of the most lengthy, exhaustive, and convoluted legal documents ever crafted.  This often impenetrable, ever growing collection of precedents, subsections, appendices, and amendments outlines a deceptively simple premise.

Kings are not mages (not always true, given a number of exceptions,) and reign at the sufferance of the Council, and the laws of the Treaty.

Only two kings have been deposed under the terms of the treaty, and a third by the super majority vote of the council, requiring seventy percent dissent, and a clear moral imperative.  The very definition of clear moral imperative is outlined in one of the lengthiest appendices, which itself has an entire volume of amendments.

If all this seems absurd it is perhaps because the council often has little better to do, given their function is not to govern.  Rather they manage who governs, the legality of their decrees, and the best interest of the world as a whole.

The Prime Council seats:

The Prime Council has 16 Members, representing the nations of the former Empire.  Their relationship to the nations they represent is however often complex, or even indirect.  The successor to each seat is sponsored by the sitting member while still alive, and need only be accepted by assent of both their peers within the Mid Council, and the members of the Prime Council.  Assent requires a vote of always one less than half the votes available.  That is seven votes for from the prime council, and whatever it amounts to among their available peers.

Voting Council members may be removed by a vote of seventy percent of the Prime and Provisional council, or the unanimous vote of the rest of the Prime council.  The prior has happened twice, the latter only once.

There are sixteen Prime Council seats, but for brevity we will discuss only the most controversial in their number.

The Clarion Ascension
Western Palentine
Eastern Palentine
Southern Palentine
Central Palentine

Notable is the seemingly disproportionate influence of Palentine, this must however be taken in context that these four nations are very often not in agreement, and contentious with one another.  Though Southern and Central Palentine are often more moderate, and unreliably will side with Eastern or Western, often canceling each other.

Corinthia conversely is disproportionately influential as more than a quarter of this nation has been rendered uninhabitable, and the border territories have grown ever more depopulated.  Corinthia votes reliably, and all but in lock step with Lycia.

The Clarion Ascension is made up of many smaller city-states, and governed regions.  It has petitioned relentlessly to see its power in the council expanded with additional seats, and been consistently denied.

Napir openly refuses to recognize council authority in their nation, and yet wields it with a voting seat.  This muddled arrangement however is enshrined in the Treaty of Mordove, and Napir’s very particular structure of governance cannot be adapted to council rules.  This is largely due to the unique nature of the position of Storm Queen, and the incredible literal powers wielded by this landlocked sovereign.

The Provisional Council:
The Provisional Council adds a variable number of seats that hold votes, though these seats are sometimes dropped to the lower council, it is most often enumerated as:

Architects – the only council seat occasionally held by an ungifted.
The War College
The North Eastern Tribes
The North Western Tribes
The Knights of the Empire – most often absent.

The Osyrean seat is particularly controversial, as Osyrae has recognized their own representation only four time in three hundred years.  King Heron recognized the sitting representative at the time of his ascension to the throne, and so the Osyrean seat is currently a member of the provisional council, in spite of his brother taking his place.  King Vharen has neither recognized or refuted the sitting representative.

As a rule the active inclusion of many of these seats is determined based on the question of the Prime Council’s view if they are both in alignment with the charter of the Treaty, and if they truly represent those they stand for.  Three times an entire Provisional seat has been dissolved, and reformed.

The Mid Council:

The junior entourage, circle of support, and heirs apparent to the seats of the Provisional and Prime seats of the council.  Mid Council members do sometimes stand for the sitting member if they are ill, by order of precedence of their understood position within the group.  Beyond this Mid Council members often make up committees, rather than deposing a Prime or Provisional member with the details of legislation.

The Lower Council:

A somewhat erratic list of guilds, aristocrats, and other intellectual circles.  They tend to grow in number, rather than shrink, as the council has proven more apt to add lower seats than rescind them.  This council has limited power or influence on the far reaching affairs of the council, but significant power over governance of Mordove itself.

The enchanted wares and textiles of Mordove are second only to those of Osyrae, but cheeper, and more plentiful.  All other rivalries aside the crafters of these two nations are locked in ageless war of refinement on their arts.  Osyrean silks and fine wools, satins and delicate dense threaded cotton from Mordove.

One of the more exotic wares from Mordove however are the work of an isolated druidic circle who have grown a small forest within a corner of the city.  These master shapers create practical, and aesthetic works of living wood, and are the last great school of shaper magic in the world.  The rise of this sub-group of the druid circle created the modern Shaper seat on the provisional council.

The Knights of the Empire:

The Knights of the Empire are recognized, and sanctioned under Council law, and only two of the Imperial Knighthoods have been stripped since the founding of the council.  One was stripped, but restored.  Three more have died out.  There are twenty three recognized Knights of the Empire, of which three are practicing mages of note, the rest primarily martial in training.  As most (Lord) Knighthoods through the former empire the title is heritable, but easily stripped for miss deeds.

The Knights of the Empire directly serve not the council, but treaty law, often with much wiggle room around the expanded volumes that have been written since the signing.  The distinction on this is often lost, particularly since the Knights were given their own seat, but it is filled less than half of the time.

Officially Knights of the Empire cary a rank slightly below that of a Duke or equivalent in any given Council land, but rarely exert this authority, and rarely would such flexing work.  Leading only to complicated political ramifications.  Though the Knights do not directly serve the council the Council does have enumerated powers to “call” the Knights to any given land to serve as they see fit.

A City by Any Other Name:

A great deal of confusion exists about the name Mordove, and competing theories swirl around possible origins.  Mor, not to be confused with the western moor, was a rather specific Anderhale word for a common rocky terrain type that is hard to cultivate, develop, or traverse.  However in old Palentien mor was simply more.  Dov in old Palentian is white, where as e was often added to Anderhale nouns to imply whiteness, and duv was their word for pidgins which are a common bird in the land.  This pattern is known to be the origin of the modern dove.

What this leads to is a bit of a miss match.  In straight old Palentien Mordov would be more white, the sense of which is not understood, and the origin of the e would be mysterious save to form the rather redundant more-white-white.  Mor of Doves is suggested as an Anderhale origin, which while not completely implausible does rub up against a general belief that Palentians first made the settlement there before fortifying it, and later being conquered by their kin.  White Mor is suggested by other scholars, as the rocky outcroppings in the area are mostly pale to white granite.  This is a plausible transitional dialect option.

Most popular amongst common residents however is the inverse suggestion of simply More Doves.  This translation gained notoriety due to joking about the overpopulation of pidgins and doves through the city.  The absurd suggestion is rejected by most, but not all scholars.  The only strong linguistic argument against it is that it is silly, but it is none the less as valid a transitional dialect solution as White Mor.

The Resolve of the Council:

In over three centuries, and baring the initial decades of marginal chaos for which records get spotty, there have been four recognized rebellions, five coups, two civil wars, three royal assassinations, and fifteen border skirmishes that have been deemed to warrant Council intervention.  The result of every single one has been controversial, and re-litigated to stalemates, upsets, or upheld only on technicalities.  In spite of this the actual force that the Council has occasionally brought to bare maintains enough fear to keep most nations on the straight and narrow.

All of this of course also ignores acts that occur outside the bounds of the Treaty of Mordove.  From internal struggles in Osyrae, to abuses of the peoples of the northern wastes, or wars between them.  Their seats on the Provisional council have proven ineffective at best, and superficial more realistically.  Given these regions are fractious the representation has been spotty if the sitting member is not of an effected tribe.  More so the two seats do not show any common interest, and in recent decades the Eastern seat is more closely aligned with the Clarion Ascension.

The single most controversial case was the assassination of the King of Thebes in 523 E.R.  This assassination was blamed on the heir apparent, shown later to be the work of his younger brother who got Council favor to take the throne.  He was then deposed, and the rightful heir freed, only to be killed in a Clarion backed coup.  This finally resulted in the installation of Queen Regent Margarite, the consort of the slain King who reigned for fifteen years till her son was of age to take the throne.  The boy however in the meantime proved to be a mage prodigy, and Margarite was left on the throne for another twelve years while the Council bickered over succession.  They finally picked the young Duke Astair, who rather than simply taking the throne instead married the aging Margarite, and deferring to her as the proper ruler till her death in 590 E.R.  He then stepped aside, naming his bastard son by his well known mistress to the throne.  The Council relented to this rather than destabilize the nation again.

This particularly egregious series of failures, and lacking leadership has left the clout of the Council in question for decades, and is considered endemic of a larger problem shown through other historic examples.

The Sylvan Sta

I’m not going to share all my notes on what exactly all the Sylvan words and phrases in Book II are, but I will speak a bit about the Sylvan tongue, or sta/stan – speak/language.

Most of their language is comprised of brief roots, that in their script are typically one glyph.  Ta, te, ka, ki, ke, na, ha, un, ve, and so on are just a tiny sample.  Most if not all of these are words on their own.  There are a few modifiers like a, i, y, etc that can significantly change a word’s meaning.  Every key sound has an undertone of meaning ranging from quality, to gender, strength, and so on, but these are far from absolute.  They merely offer an extra level of emotional impact to the language for a learned speaker.

That all said, the language is a bit like english in that there has been a lot of degradation of the roots with time.  Most speakers have as such memorized words, and not roots.  Tepal (true-people) who re-root their speech are considered full of themselves, and too in their head.  That is except among the nobility, where it is common, and praised.  There is further massive use of idioms that have become as ingrained in their language as lol, or gun metaphors have infected english.

It is also what I (an amateur linguist at best) would call a half-tonal language.  Which is to say that tone, much like in english, mostly carries emotional import, or subtext.  The subtext however is almost more crucial in Testa (true-speech.)  It can change the meaning of words and phrases in ways that would be familiar to english speakers.  Question, or statement, doubt or certainty, command or request, and a number of hard to translate concepts.  Further, sarcasm is actually a built in feature of their language, and has at least three distinct forms ‘accusatory,’ ‘playful,’  and ‘leading.’

This obnoxiously introduces the idea of double-sarcasm, and is the point at which people learning Sylvan typically quit, or master it instantly.  This, in well used double-sarcastic form, would imply not judgement of either party, but props to the language.  In this case it would also mean about the same thing regardless of the form (tone), but there are nuanced untranslatable (most Sylvans even get a bit confused) meanings to each combination of tone in the double-sarcasm.  Very cheeky speakers may chain every other word in a differing sarcastic tone.  The effect of which is rather sing-song, and typically cheery sounding.  Just like in english, the speaker is probably making a total ass of themself for irritating effect.  A noble would never do this, at least not outside of very intimate company.


Side Notes:

Sylvan glyphs look similar (more rigid, and complex) to many runes used by mages, and there is some shared meaning with standard convention, but it is fragmentary at best.  Nonetheless being presented with Sylvan writing, rather than speech, Kiannae might have had a much easier time understanding some of it.

On pronunciation:

There is no direct z sound in Sylvan speech, but there is j, which is pronounced a bit like zj, and to be differentiated from g which is the strong gu.  I chose to use js over zs though for reasons, which the most astute amongst my readers might guess.  I also won’t cry over anyone juing instead of zjaing – its close enough.

Also when in doubt y is as in yet.


For kicks here is a translation of the first verse of Ivan’s song:

Vonjon vejon, jo os soer ven.
What-will-be will-be, [the] future not ours [to] see.

No, the rest does not translate into other parts of que sera sera.
It’s closer to “for every season turn turn,” but not quite.

For clarity: There is an idiomatic understanding of objectifying the future; which implies “will-be.”  A grossly literal and un-nuanced translation would read “what-future-being” “why-future-being.”   The objective n in Sylvan does a lot of complex things in various contexts, including changing vo (which) into von (what,) or ve (why,) into ven (see.)  The intent of vejon is a re-iteration of uncertain future, but again in an objective sense.  A more certain statement of “will be” would translate jo ji – but this is almost more like saying “[it] will be [done].”  A fairly proper answer to a superior, parent, elder, etc giving a command.

Now since I’ve given you ve (why,) then veve would best translate “why [ask] why?”


Feel free to speculate in the comments, I’d love to hear what you all think.  Keep in mind if you think it could be a spoiler please preface it for your fellow readers with [Book]:[Chapter]:Spoiler, or just “Speculative Spoiler:” if you think you have unraveled something far reaching. Thanks!

About the Author

The Past:

I wrote my first book when I was six.  I’m not saying it was Shakespeare, all that much longer than a few tweets, or that I remember any more than someone in a ship did something terribly important – probably saving some world of fuzzy things.  It was also illustrated, however poorly as a six year old is apt to do.  Alas that great manuscript is forever lost.  That’s where it started though.  I’ve spent my life obsessed with building worlds, the histories behind the people that live in them, and struggling with the challenge that is taking a setting and characters that compel me to a meaningful destination.  The journey is important, and most assuredly hard.

I took my first stab at writing a proper novel sometime around ten, and spent years re-writing those first chapters of two books over, and over again.  I added quite a few more to the list of endless re-hashing over the next decade or so.  I’ll get back to those worlds some day (as if I don’t visit often,) but for now I am here, and the tale of the Ashtons and the world that grew exponentially around them is farther than anything else I’ve ever tried before.

Even my currently profitable career as a tech-artist is a path I stumbled down out of my desire to tell stories, and my frustrations with the tools presented to me.  Be it the organizational process of redesigning history, society, and the interpersonal events of day to day life, or the want to craft tales that do not tell so much as show.  (Character illustration is also notably time consuming.)  Or just the uphill battle of vision that always exceeds scope.  I don’t do small, simple, or short easily, and almost every time I try it gets away from me.

I have always been a daydreamer, drawn inexorably to the gravitational pull of the mysteries in human existence.  A fundamental philosophical agnostic, far beyond the bounds of theology and into the realm of knowledge itself.  Nothing is truly knowable, but it sure is fun to try.  More honestly I long ago came to the conclusion that no knowledge is absolute, no truth perfect.  There are only questions and turtles, all the way down.

I readily ponder the point in our fascination with fantasy.  The pull of magical thinking that permits us to embrace the idea of mages, dragons, spells, and occasionally even moral government.  Really no more fantastical than swords made of light, engines that warp space time, and little blue boxes that are bigger on the inside.  I write that kind of fantasy too.

I can only presume that there is some fundamental survival value in our determination to ask “what if,” even if what follows is close to gibberish.  A determination to challenge the status quo even if that might be gravity itself.  What if I flap my arms?  No.  What if I use a sling shot?  Probably not.  What if I light literal tons of oxygen and hydrogen under my ass? Sometimes.

The Present:

In my day job I write code and make art.  I deal both in the quantifiable certainty of mathematics (not always as certain as you might think,) and the ephemeral chaos of fudging it till it feels right (which some would argue is a science!)  The strange reality that while a single switch gives you black and white, eight give you a couple hundred shades of gray, three ‘channels’ of these and you have millions of colors.  Then maddening as it is, the fuzzy organic mechanisms of the human eye can still see hard lines between them.

I like to approach magic rationally.  There is no distinction between magic and physics within the context of a fantasy world.  Magic is in that sense Science, mysticism on the other hand is the cargo-cult of failing to test what parts of the process actually achieve a result, or even to ponder if correlation is not equal to causation.  It is the failure to check if our accepted understanding of how space is shaped or light works, is not an over simplification of something gloriously more complex.  Dogma is available to all possible world views, and all worlds filled with emotional beings.

Which is not to say I do not obsess over mysticism, and religious ideas.  How we arrive at our faiths, and scientific certainties, that are always just a little off fact (what ever that might be.)  I am however far more interested in switching the pieces around to make something new, than believing in something unknowable.  I am more interested in exploring the divine mysteries, than accepting someone else’s answers to them.

I am deeply fascinated by how things work.  Less the very particular parts of chemistry, the resistors, how the switch works, but rather to grasp the fact that under all that, there is a switch.  If black and white make up the system, it informs what that system will become, as surely as shades of gray change the game.

We are fuzzy organic systems filled with quantum uncertainty, living in a binary world.  Not just the technological age that we are now in, but the monotheistic construct of binary morality we have built western civilization on for centuries.  Although I like to assert it is really dithiestic, as god and the devil represent polar opposites.  Any distinction of ordinal or power disparity between them is trivial in the actual application of how it informs world views into discreet buckets of good and evil.  Black and white.  On and off.

The world of O&E is one shaped by a very different moral conflict.  It is not a battle between gods for the worship of mortals, but the more direct struggle of mortals in abstract of clear personal gods, over the very idea of morality.  The pragmatic Clarions obsessed with an idea of a march towards a perfect being – in essence to create or become god – and the “chaotic good” view of morality above progress or rules.  Set further again against even more upheaval from greed and ambition with or without faith.  For some, greed and ambition are their faith.

The Future:

The Storm Cycle has four planned books – tentatively titled (no spoilers):

  • Rain in Avrale (Complete & Published – aka Children of Avrale)
  • Dust the Wind (Publishing in Progress)
  • The Weathered Road (20% written)
  • Stormfall (fragments and the end written)

There are also two supplemental books I strongly intend to write in the same time period, and involving secondary characters:

  • The Rose of Osyrae: (general outline)
    • A tale split between the schemes of the palace and the streets of the capital.
  • Liora’s Lament: (general outline)
    • A defiant young girl’s path through an order that thinks little of women.

Other books set on Thaea that I hope to get to – many tentatively titled:

  • Path of the Maji:
    • The Last Witch (40% written)
      • Set in ancient Lycia at the dawn of the age of Kings.
    • Lady of the Vales
      • The rise to power of First Queen Navi.
    • The First King
      • The beginnings of magic, and the overturning of the old order.
  • The Empire Chronicles:
    • The Wolf and the Imperator – the fall of Lycia and the founding of Corinthia.
    • Heirs to the Wind – how a nation became an Empire to span the world.
    • The Shape of Dragons (many fragments written)
      • The rise of dragons, and fall of an empire’s golden age.

However all consuming O&E tends to be – is far from the only world I want to share with the people of ours.  Here is just a small peak at a few notable for being close to completion or publication.

The Granddaughter Paradox: (first draft complete)

A tale of first contact and political maneuvering in the thirty-first century.  Pondering the nature of a ‘post singularity’ near immortal humanity, and inspired by one of the more chilling solutions to the Fermi paradox.  One of several completed manuscripts in my back pocket.  Other books started, and under consideration.

The Architect of Babylon: (first book 60% written)

First book in a series re-imagining Judo-Christian and other myth by fragmenting the role of the devil, and leaving God an uncomfortably open question no one might like the answer to.  Two or more books currently planed.

The Roses & The Raven: (completed short story)

An unconventional stab at a conventional fairytale format.  Following the schemes of a witch to over throw a Witch Queen who has cursed and conquered a once great and (ig)noble land, and two young friends that find themselves the crucial pawns in a dangerous game of magic and prophecy.  This has spawned further exploration of the youth of the Raven Witch, and the fall of that once proud land, that is so far incomplete.

And dear god – far too many more.

Cloistered Life

On a westward hill above the plains that span from Lycia to Eastern Palentine stands a cloister.  Not a place of that venerated order of men, who bare no want for this world.  Rather an ancestral home to that ancient sisterhood of women, who long forswore the fickle conceits of men, and found instead harbor with those of their own form, and temperament.

There is nothing harsh at all about that place – save the biting wind on a cold winter’s day.  The order some would label a Sisterhood is in all regards a reflection of their brothers who stood across the plains.  As the moon reflects the sun, they are tranquil – absent the fierce fire, the Clarion calling – without the burning vitriol of fervent dogma.  Yet all this passion not spent upon pious speeches, might find outlet in other ways.

Or so the tales would tell.  Nothing is quite so simple.

– The Lady of Red, Dorian Letner, 251 E.R.


Cloistered life in the kingdoms of Thaea may hold many expected qualities.  It is after all a lifestyle that lends itself to separating from the world, to meditative pursuits, and a mystique of obscurity, often hidden from prying eyes.  Yet to even discuss this life properly one must first separate two diametrically opposed religious philosophies that have adopted the same trappings.

The Lycian and Clarion orders differences, for all their textured history, and consequences do boil down somewhat succinctly to a vitriolic disagreement over the things of the world.  That is desire, war, philanthropy, materialism, agency, and sexuality.  Though it would be disingenuous to say either order is strictly speaking celibate, though one is heavily chaste.

The Clarion Cloister system is older (if not original,) though it seems to have adopted some patterns of older reclusive communes, the architecting of both the dwellings and way of life owes heavily to Clarion practice.  Lcyian’s, largely through the work of Sylvia Grey, adopted first an abandoned structure, and later many self exiled individuals who brought with them their way of life from the Clarion Cloisters.

Lycian Life:

In most regards Lycian cloistered life is the simpler, and easier system to explain.  The cloister complex is divided roughly into three sections.  Though they are rarely evenly distributed.  A Communal central area with workshops, kitchen, dining hall, and classrooms.  The Family area housing children and most often their parents.  The Devotional wing, which may further naturally subdivide by discipline, doctrinal adherence, and guest quarters.

The greatest complexity of describing Lycian life in detail comes from their limited doctrinal cannon.  They hold a few things sacrosanct on general principle, but the underlying faith of most residents tends to be spiritual, rather than based in a firm religious ideology.  They are largely pacifists, dedicated to healing, and not doing harm.  They are against war, but not above healing soldiers presented to them.

Red Sisters often dominate the Devotional wing of many cloisters.  These are the sub-sect of the order devoted to the teachings of Sylvia Grey, and by extension a life lived passionately, fully, with absolute love, and a commitment to all, never one.  Though a Red Sister will most often wear a crimson robe, there is nothing preventing any woman of age from taking up the robe, and nor does a Red Sister’s vows hold her to the robe.

There are three common robes within a Lycian cloister.  Each has either meaning, or function.  Brown robes are for work details, or rainy muddy days.  White or pale gray robes are common ware for activities that will not stain, for meditative free days, or for Red Sisters signal that they wish solitude.  Red Robes signify a desire for attention, particularly of a physical sort.  Most often these robes are relatively simple, though full Red Sisters sometimes seek out robes that are patterned, or trimmed elegantly.  For very heavy work there is often a mixture of more utilitarian clothing, particularly among those who specialize in disciplines of work for the upkeep of the buildings, or for climbing in orchards.

Lycian’s often maintain orchards, vineyards, and of course gardens for their own use, but also for sale of goods beyond their walls.  Scribes, canners, textiles, woodworking are all not uncommon.  Some cloisters even have extensive arcanist workshops for enchanted wares, though these tend to be rare in western lands that often have trouble keeping those with an inclination for magic from wandering, or seeking more lucrative lifestyles.  Further the most gifted healers – the primary export of any cloister – are often lured away by adventure, wealth, or other incentives.

Duties, particularly the less pleasant ones, within the cloister are fairly evenly shared, with a slight exception that those with aptitude, and skill in rarer capacities can undertake less desirable tasks less.  This encourages the young to specialize, and focus on being good at useful things.  A failure to dedicate oneself, or simply a lack of natural ability can be limiting, but there is no shame in this, just inconvenience.

Not all residents of a Lycian cloister are gifted, or born to the life.  Outcasts, visitors who have made donations to the order, and women renouncing their former life, and sometimes their share of wealth are all welcome.  The visitors who take up temporary residence lend to one of the slurs that is hurled at Lycian’s.  Given an entire order of women within their cloister walls are devotees of passion, who often take it upon themselves to ‘heal the weary heart, and soul.’

In spite of the epithet Sisterhood, male Lycian adherents make up nearly a third of the order.  Though less than a quarter of the adults within a cloister are likely to be men.  There are a number of likely contributing factors to this.  First the order rarely accepts men not born to the life.  On the other side countless outcast women have taken up shelter within cloister walls.  Many of the men within the order choose to live off cloister grounds, as they often have an easier time of it – perhaps because false incitements of harlotry do not stick as well to them.  A common cause for this choice is often that men have less authority within Lycian cloisters than women.  The head of a cloister is always a Matron, and men are offered leading roles within disciplines only if they are clearly the best candidate at the time of choosing.  Red Sisters notably are exclusively women, though this has rarely been a cause for a man to leave.

Clarion Life:

Structurally most of the general principles of Lycian life align with those of Clarion Cloisters, but there are very key differences that appear immediately.  First men and women do not reside in the same Clarion Cloister.  Children younger than seven are housed in their own wing of a women’s cloister, after which the boys leave either for a men’s cloister, or to live with their father, or an adoptive family.

Cloistered residents live in near celibacy, with a key exception.  Women of strong gift are expected to bare a child every four to seven years from the age of sixteen till their fertility wains (often around sixty.)  This is a duty, and a prerequisite for their continued residence.  The fathers are assigned from within the rolls of the order, again men of gift, preferably of near the woman’s age. Women of little or no gift will have no children, and this goes doubly for men.  Cloistered clarion men are far more likely to be entirely celibate.

Clarion women are trained more fervently in healing techniques – both for practical capacity, and because it is believed to increase the gift of their children.  Men are also trained thoroughly as healers, but receive a broad, and deep education as preachers.  Men are most readily sent out, and available for hire in their capacity in both regards.

This pattern of life has turned a relatively small number of initial devoted adherents into one of the largest blocks of gifted practitioners in the post imperial age.  Having maintained this from the time of the mid empire Clarion’s have installed themselves in almost every nation (only Lycia, Osyrae, and Napir are openly hostile to their presence.)  They have wedged themselves into the politics, and the identity of the populace, and made life difficult for Lycian’s beyond their cloisters.  This has further allowed Clarions to nearly monopolize the role of healer in many villages, and towns, but they struggle to maintain exclusive hold on major cities.

Clarions also take up varied professions within their cloisters to facilitate the wealth of the order.  Arcanists are more common among them on average because the role is assigned, and not a choice to pursue.  Clarion cloisters offer in general very little agency, if one shows any capacity for a skill of value it becomes the centerpiece of their life, and a part of their duty to the order.  To refuse is to risk being cast out, becoming apostate, and being persecuted until such time as one can gain acceptance, or seek refuge from non-adherent outsiders.

Not all young men are trained to be priests, or healers.  Some are offered to the order of Paladin’s for training.  These are often young men who are larger, more temperamental, and viewed as in need of deeper discipline, while putting their more energetic, or violent tendencies to use.  It varies greatly whether this path can be viewed as an honor for steadfast, and capable young men, or a punishment and last chance for troublemakers of strong physical constitution.

The life of a Paladin is very similar to any other Clarion cloister, but with a singular focus on martial training, and even deeper regimentation of daily life.  Their structures are often taller, and more fortress like, their courtyards filled with training pits, practice dummies, and smithies rather than meditative gardens.  Paladins wake early, train constantly, and often brutally.  Their gifts make them push young trainees, and even senior members to frequent, and sometimes serious injury, knowing that it can be healed.  Paladins learn not to fear pain as a result, to defy it, and rise above it.

The Paladin order produces all of its own weapons, armor, and equipment.  It is of singular quality, distinctive in appearance and material.  Forged by Paladins, enchanted by Paladins who take up magic as well as martial, and healing training.  Only those who master all three areas are considered Grand Masters, and there are rarely more than five Grand Masters alive at any time.  They hold an honorary rank slightly above Commanders who are granted their position by the order, and assigned to the service of Palentian and Ascension King’s and Lords, and occasionally to surrounding lands viewed as swayable to the Clarion faith.


Lycian is a very overloaded word.  Originally Lycia is the name of a nation of the far east, bordering the eastern Sylvan territory.  This name dates back to a wolf god.  They have long been an independent, proud people who favor their autonomy – though they were the first members of the Empire due to the very nature of how the Empire came to be.  Lycia has long held a tendency to matriarchy, which was only reinforced by the genocide committed against their men in the years before the Empire’s founding.

Lycia’s Queen Regent – even as the Empire permitted the expansion of the Clarions – refused to allow the Clarion faith within her borders.  This made Lycia a safe haven for gifted spiritually inclined individuals long before the rise to prominence of Sylvia Grey.  Even longer before that the patriarchal surrounding word turned Lycian into a slur with a textured range of meanings from weak and bowed when applied to a man, to sexually lose when applied to a woman, to possibly that she preferred women.  It is not at all unlikely that the connection of wolf to dog was lost on no-one.

Sylvia Grey, a infamous lover of women, a polyamorous intellectual, and one of the most renowned artists of her age made it one of her life goals to reclaim every defamed meaning of Lycian.  This coupled with the already growing group of apostates in Lycia set the Lycian Order in stone as her following grew to near cult like proportions, and spread.

All this has made the word incredibly complicated to use clearly.  It would have been so much easier if it was just the name of a minor island, and not a large, sprawling, prominent main land nation.  If only further an epitaph for a sexuality, and not also for a faith.  Sylvia’s own name was of little use, as this would only muddy the waters further by drawing the Sylvan people erroneously into the conversation.

Lycian in post imperial times only a slur in the eyes of Clarion adherents, and they just lump everything they hate in it together without much care for meaning.

1-6b: A Journal of War

Here we have the first of the Chapter Extras.  This is a collection entries from the journal of Gwendoline (referenced in Chapter 6,) Princess of the Empire, Duchess of Midrook, and Queen Regent of Avrale.  This series of excerpts chronicle a very personal experience of the Dragon War, from one of few mortals to witness both the beginning, and the end of the most bloody conflict in recorded history.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

It has been a century since I have truly looked into the eyes of my sister… Of all the horrors of the day, this is what hangs on me.  I have seen a goddess bleed.  I have seen scales like diamond rent, and heard the baleful cry of our Dragon Empress.  I have seen her fall weakly upon the cliffside before my gates…and I have bared to look into her eyes…after all this time.

My sister was dead.  My sister was something timeless, and inhuman… I had let her go.  I had mourned, and pledged nearly the same fealty to the dragon that had taken her name.  I had looked at those eyes before.  I had seen the dragon…and how wrong I was.  For today as she cried, as healers tended to our Empress, and I looked into her great eye.  I saw her.  No matter how large, and changed that eye, it was hers.  It was my Roshanna, eldest princess who would read to me when we were little.  I abandoned her, I forgot her, I left her alone for a century of our lives.

My old bones could nearly crack beneath the weight of it.  My sister…my sister who lives, who by all measures seemed immortal, the last ruler this world would ever need…  She has nearly perished, fallen at the might of another dragon.  Fear grips me, there is not merely another of her kind now in the world, he has an army like him, and we…my country…my son will be first to bear the brunt of what is upon us.  The horror of an age.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

The Empress…my sister…  She has gone against the advisement of healers, and flown on to the east.  Some are whispering of cowardice, others do not blame her, but few see the truth.  She has failed once against our coming foe, she must seek hope at the heart of the Empire…and yet what hope can there be?

Now I must flex my own political authority, already weakened by the Empress’s retreat.  My son seeks to rally the troops, and prepare to defend against the inevitable.  I must depose him from the station he seeks to take up, and send him away.  I pray that he has more of my reason, than his father’s steady but stubborn will.  It is fortunate perhaps, that I wed the young duke, and not the elder prince after all.  For now I may press my dear cousin in law, our King to tap my son to diplomatic service.  By this force him out of the path of the coming storm. I have sent my letter, now…now I wait, and hope.  My years are short, let a princess of the Empire stand, let it be my blood that is shed when the war comes, not my son.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Ashrook has fallen, only a lone soldier was spared the dragon’s wrath.  I wonder if he was allowed to escape, only to spread fear.  It is unclear how many might have been taken prisoner, and there is no word of the duke, though his wife arrived some days ago on her way to Broken Hill.

My entreaty has been answered, and my son has threatened to defy the King.  I have pleaded that he accept the role he is called to, and he has correctly blamed me for the King’s order.  First I have waited for word, and now I wait for my son to see reason.  There cannot be long for him to accept.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Broken Hill is aflame.  My son is no longer a Duke…he is a King.  A King in a war where the high mountains of Avrale mean nothing.  Where a force of dragons can fly swiftly in the dead of night, and lay siege to the capital before even an alarm is raised.  There is no longer any command that he need head.  If I can no longer go above him, then my dear daughter in law is my only hope.  If she cannot speak reason to our new king, then at least she can carry my grandchildren far from here.  I only worry to where.

Would South Rook be safe enough?  To Wesrook perhaps, and the chance to retreat across the Strait of Carth?  To send her all the way through Niven, to seek refuge from our cousin?  Could even the Storm Queen stand, if the Empire falls?

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

My son…my King.  I think I have lost any right in his eyes to ever call him son again.  He has abided his wife’s words, and she has left for the south.  He knows this was right, but my constant maneuvering behind his back has wounded him.  It matters little if it were for his own good, that of his family…this nation….

Now we wait, and an old woman will fight beside her son… My only hope left, that I die first – for I cannot imagine victory.  Nohrook has been sacked, though some reports say the tower itself still stands.  The greatest mage king of our age could not even scratch Roshanna, and these dragons laid her low.  Nothing has phased the attackers.  Human mages and soldiers march in unresisted to clean up the destruction the dragons bring.  Pride will kill my son, duty be my undoing…but my grandchildren will live.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

They have set up camp down the pass, and dragons circle high above us, out of reach.  It is only a matter of time.  The wards of Midrook are strong, some of my best work, and my son’s.  I am proud of him, much as I wish he would have fled, and let me stand here for the inevitable.

He has looked into my eyes again, for the first time since his wife departed.  No words were said, and no words were needed.  What could they be?  Neither of us are sorry, but there is still love there.  It is good to know that again, before the end.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have been permitted my journal at last, and may finally record the fall of Midrook, my home.  My son is dead…I have outlived him.  Perhaps I was too stubborn to grant my own wish for death.  We stood side by side on the wall when it fell.  That even with the best of my skill I broke but a single of my brittle old bones, being thrown clear into the heart of the city, is a wonder.

Flames, death, destruction.  The screams of the dying, and the crackling of burning wood, as dragons melted a path of oblivion through the city.  There was nothing I could do but try to tend to my own broken leg, and watch as the smoke rose.  The street where I fell was empty.  All the remaining horrors of that day distant.

It was the flames that saved me.  Not a pain I could bear to die in.  I extinguished the fire around me before shock took me, and woke some time later at the point of a sword, and the azure coat of a royal Osyrean mage standing over me.  I surrendered.  Could I have bested him?  Perhaps, even in my condition – yet what was the point?  A lone old woman with a broken leg, in a fallen city, surrounded by enemy soldiers.  Dragons still perched on hilltops.

I did not offer my identity quickly, till it was forced from my lips to spare the life of some poor servant girl.  From then I was important…and guarded closely, kept from the eyes of any other prisoner.

Recently I have been moved to a tower chamber that was chosen – I am sure – for its view out over Midrook.  A black trail of glass cuts through the wall, and the city.  The houses around it reduced to scorched rubble.  Much of the city still stands, cut in half by that obsidian scar, but I do not imagine it ever rising to her former glory.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Smoke fills the sky to the north east.  I have heard the whispers of guards.  The Sylvans are putting up a remarkable fight, and I wish them all the best.  Perhaps one day they can be allies after all, if they do not take Osyrae as merely a part of our human world.

There are other rumors of the Empire fortifying Helm.  Towers that can unleash beams of pure light, one of which purportedly exploded.  The guards chuckled over that.  I am in the end just a prisoner listening to the quiet chatter of her jailers.  What I know does not matter, and does not leave this tower.  What I know confounds me more than it comforts me, terrifies me for the world so much as those I could ever even name.  This will get worse.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have lost a sister, and Vhael has lost a general.  Oh Calista, dear proud Calista.  It did not need to be you to finish the cursed dragon.  Her name is not mentioned, not by my guards, but a woman who lead paladins, who’s blade cut the throat of a felled general of the black flight.  It could have been no other.  Pride and sorrow, joy and tears.  I am wracked with clashing emotions.  That a battle went at all in our favor, and then the cost of that meager victory.  Dear little Calista…a princess who wanted nothing more than to be a knight.  She died living her truth.

I cannot even write anymore, my tears smudge the ink, but I must.  If nothing else I will leave some memory in this world of my love for my sisters, as all the world falls to ash and ruin around me.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I cannot even comprehend the whispers of my jailers.  They say Corinthia is no more, burned to nothing.  That it was this terrible crime that lit the night sky a thousand miles away.  Yet all at once they whisper their King was wounded, that a god was born on the battlefield, and defied them.  Harsh curses of traitor.  It is all madness, utter madness.  Are they toying with me?  Are we winning?  Losing?

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

My high perch, the one they gave me to witness my country laid low.  Even my old eyes could see their Dragon King flounder.  Yes, the beast is wounded.  His Queen though is strong, his general loyal.  Oh but the other vultures circle, black fiendish flying things that they are.  Let not their scales fool you, they are no more than scavengers, not proud birds of prey.  All ready to fall upon the chance to take command for themselves.

Can I hope that this setback will tear them apart from within.  Can I believe that treachery, the betrayal of the empire will be met in kind among these traitors, these monsters.  I can name a few old gods, none I believe in in my heart, and yet I pray to every name for this simple justice.  For my enemies to be their own greatest foes.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Dragons, green, white, one even black as the enemy.  They routed the Osyrean’s from my city, driving back their leaders, and leading all that remained to throw down their arms, and up their hands.  The Emperess has returned, and when I heard the feet scramble up the stairs to my chamber, when I heard the key turn.  I was ready to slay any who came to end me before I might see her again.

One of the guards, he had killed at least one other who had such ideas.  He prostrated himself before me, he begged his life.  I was sorely tempted not to oblige him, but no more would I kill him there on the ground.  I made him look me in the eye, and then I lost the nerve.  I am not them, I cannot kill in cold blood.

I nonetheless kicked the bastard to the ground as we left the tower, as I marched amongst the prostate soldiers of Osyrae, up to my sister, and threw my arms around her great fore leg.  So gently she set her vast snout to my back, so gentle this giant I had once scorned in my heart.  I knew the war had not ended, I knew there were terrible deeds left to do, and yet, there, that moment, nothing could ever be wrong with the world again.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have never thought much of the Clarions.  Some, noble enough, I suppose.  I know less what to think of this…thing…the adherents call Avatar.  The tale none the less gives me pause, a man who stood before dragon fire, who stood defiant as enchanted shield, and armor failed him, who did not burn away, but burned brighter than the fire that sought to consume him.  He is glorious, strange, strong, and yet oddly frail.  I am not sure I see him right at all, and I do blush sometimes to look upon him.  He wears nothing but light, though I must admit that brilliance does sometimes blind one to the details, he remains a man, even if some now worship him as a god.

This creature is our ally, and yet, I worry.  He does not speak, though they say actions are louder than words.  There is much we do not know about his nature, and much more I fear in the reverence the Clarions feel for him.  The Clarions already often undermined Imperial authority, now they have a god, a thing to hold up against dragons, for he has proved at least so powerful as several.

I see it in Roshana’s gaze, she does not trust him either.  Though her words are of implicit faith, she sees it, she sees perhaps more than I.  What are these things I see in the shadows cast by his light.  What are the echoes he calls up around us.  They only appear in the corner of the eye, always familiar, but never fully seen.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I ride with the army.  They abide my presence grudgingly, but I want no claim to the world that is left if this campaign fails.  Let me be there to see it done, to victory, or ruin.  Yet every day it seems victory is more likely, and every night strange, and incomprehensible dreams wrest me from somber sleep.

She shines brighter than even the Avatar.  I see her before him, a little girl, unafraid, then a great woman brighter than the sun, awash in light, devoid of gravity.  I know the prophecy of the storm child, yet why am I seeing it?  Who is this girl to me?  Just a fragment of this Avatar’s future?

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

The Black King is dead, but my heart finds little solace in it.  I find almost more hope in his son, maddening as that is.  He stood defiant before my sister, a sword held up.  Not a threat at all, just a punctuation, a sign of conviction, no more.

Roshana has had no part in it.  If there is to be peace she says it is for others to forge.  I have ridden to the high hill where she has perched, and she gazes not to the fallen capital we took, but east, I know in my heart, to the one we lost.

She has spoken to me of the words of the infamous Sylvia Grey, a name that has reached even distant Avrale.  I am of mixed opinion, though I have tried to console my sister.  I believe she judges herself too harshly, that the blame cannot fall to her.  She who ruled fair, and kind.  Who founded another golden age for an empire determined to hunger for darker days.

Yet what solace lies in the lack of blame.  She is the image of the monsters that have ruined our world, and whatever treaty is struck, how gladly will the world again bow before a dragon?

Yet even these worries pale to fights yet to be had.  Niven still stands occupied, and my sister, my Empress, she plots more war, even as her heart is no longer in such endeavors.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Less than half the council survives.  Yet even then they have never held true authority before.  I cringe at this course, but I can offer no better.  The Empire will be no more.  We will enshroud what we can of all that it stood for in new treaties, and laws.  We will steal from the world the brightest gifts, bringing them to Mordove.  They will live together, they will be family, friends, and the free nations listen to their kin.

It is a new world though, one now more divided, borders tighter.  The open roads of the empire now subject to sovereign regional authority.  Will they maintain the spirit?  Will these few centuries stick in their hearts?  When already they longed for war.  Perhaps that fire is quenched, perhaps it will work.

Mage kings are forbidden, or at least discouraged.  Exceptions have been made.  Nohlend’s King is a good man, with precious few to pass authority to.  My grandson shall not be trained further though it pains me.  I am a Queen, and a regent even then, small distinctions.  I shall live out my days, rebuild that proud tower at Broken Hill, and leave this world as best I can.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have said goodbye I think, perhaps for the last time to my sister.  All that I saw, the girl I still knew in her that day beyond my gates, it has faded, though the shadow is there.  This war has cost much of what was left of her humanity.  The final battles of Niven have left her shaken.  She will not even speak of what happened in the routing of the dragons from that land.

Her throne renounced she says she will take refuge in Napir, with the grace of our cousin.  She jokes she will take a nap for a century…and I wonder if there is any jest at all behind the growling laugh with which she said it.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I was wrong.  Though I needed be carried to the castle gate, my sister has returned to me.  She offers me a scale, one wrested painfully from her own hide.  It contains the magic to make me immortal, if I survive it, to make me like her.  I wept at her side, cried into the night tucked beneath her mighty wing.

I have read much written by the woman Sylvia, now passed.  I have asked a group of her followers to take up residence at Highvale, and tend the orchards there.  I am torn.  Death…it is the great unknowable enemy.  Do I defy it, do I give up my humanity…or do I embrace the foe I can never love?

Only two sisters remain of seven daughters born to our kind Emperor.  When I die…will anything be left of her?  If I become as her, can I save her from the morose I see in her great eyes, or will it take me just as well, in time.

I know my answer, and yet I can hardly believe it is so.  If there is a world after, I will seek my son, and husband there.  My lost sisters, our father…and wait to see if one day an errant dragon might come home to roost.  If there is not…at least there will be peace.

Something to Swear By

A topic onto itself – beyond Audience Appropriateness, and my persnicketiness about other aspects of language – are the expletives, and I suppose to a lesser extent the pejoratives and accolades of the world of Thaea.  Much as there will be no “railroading” or other culturally inappropriate terminology, certain mythological constructs are not there, and others are.

Lets start with the big G, God:

While there are gods (lower case) in the form of mythology (mostly faded,) and while some might ascribe to a favored idea, the very notion of gods is a bit different for the people of Thaea.  Gifted were once far more common than they are now, a great age of reason swept the world, and while God may be a scientifically untestable principle to us mortals of Earth, for the gifted beings of Thaea it approaches testable.

Approaches I say because while they can be little more certain of the existence of a God or gods, they can be much more certain of the nature of these beings.  When one with any significant gift mediates, when they reach outward, rather than inward, there are forces out there, things with will, but not clearly thought as we understand it.  Certainly not on scales we understand it.  For Thaeans the split would not really be between God and gods, but between Gods and gods.

The elements, the forces of nature, and nature itself feel to the gifted more like Gods.  They are real, tangible things.  They exist, express will, and can be channeled, these are testable things, repeatable, though persnickety.  It is not prayer for they will not understand their words, nor answer their questions.  It is meditation, and attunement, a negotiation between the inclination of the forces around oneself, and the way in which one would like to shape those forces.

The lower case gods are the myths, the things that existed long ago that might seem more like a greek pantheon.  They are stories, and ideas that have lingered in the culture.  That scholars argue about the existence of.  Clearly these things are gone now, or never were, or are not quite as the stories say.  They are again often things tied with the forces of nature.  The moon (Laune) the sun (Rhan), something ancestral or animalistic such as Yaune (the first mortal) the lynx god (Fela) or the wolf god (Lycus).

On to the Fates:

Out of all this faded (defunct) mythology cursing God isn’t really a thing.  But an outlier stands up to be a pain in everyone’s collective backsides (asses is such an awkward plural, a 3:2 s ration, so hissy) the Fates.  The Fates occupy a very odd place in Thaean culture.  A defunct, almost lost mysticism, but some knowledge of these beings is still maintained by dedicated seers, and within the popular nomenclature cursing the Fates, swearing by them, or blaming them for misfortune remains quite popular.  More so even than simply “curse my lucky.”

Thaeans as a people tend to personify luck (abstractly) more that even we do.  Prophecy is real, but also painfully misleading.  Precognitive glimpses are common, and dangerous because you cannot (or at least few can reliably) tell the difference between spiraling towards an event, or away from it.

Now on the other side the Devil:

The word Hell does not exist in the world of O&E, and for that matter neither does the devil as a personified being. Demons and angels go out with the bathwater.  As much as struggling with ones demons may be a thing, and angel is a delightful diminutive the words have no place in O&E, they do not belong.  If you ever see either word in cannon smack me please.

That said there is an analogue to the devil AND hell in O&E but they are not separate concepts.  The Abyss is more a place than a being, but it is a force of nature within their mysticism believed to exist “bellow” the nether.  It gets some of the personification of a deity like many forces of nature, but it is not really considered to think, feel, emote, just devour.  The notion of the Abyss is very analogous to a blackhole, though more singular and all consuming as the ultimate doom of all things.  It is often even associated with the concept of Entropy, but there is argument over this.

Of course everything has an opposite, and where there is darkness there is Light:

Much as the Abyss is a vague analogue to the devil and hell, the Light is an equally vague (if not more so) analogue for a God or heaven, but also incredibly muddled.  The Light is often two things conflated – the Aether and living (particularly human) energy.  There are only fine distinctions between human energies and the energies of Thaea (yes the world, but also the living world, and a God capital g) but they exist.  Human life (generally) feels warmer, more delicate, and also often shallow.  It’s the same thing almost in the way that crude oil and gasoline are, but that analogy might miss.

I imagine, and will probably canonize some time in Book 2 (now that I think of it) that there is an almost mathematical quality to it as a factor of: life span, current age, consciousness, and scale.  A mouse then might feel like a vaguely warm raindrop, and a tree like a deep cold river.  That however starts to touch on the synesthesia gifted experience that I want to touch on at some point, but not here.

Not really something to swear about, but as long as we’ve hit G and D, lets hit E:

Evolution is taken somewhat for granted in Thaean culture.  The idea is very old, to the point no origin can be identified.  To ask a native who thought it up might seem as obtuse as to ask us who thought up the idea of gods. The mechanism however is more in debate.

Most Thaeans consider evolution as much a guided process as a random one.  Whether this is attributed to nature, gods, or intrinsic gift however is fuzzier.  Thaeans do have to contend with after all the origin of dragons, mutating nature of dire beasts, and other things shaped (literally) by magic.  They have a somewhat mixed knowledge of genetics, inheritance, and how it all works, but they come at it a bit more from the side of “patterns” than “chemistry.”  Skilled Shapers can observe the genetic behaviors of an organism, alter them, but not necessarily understand the chemistry of the underlying genetics.  I would liken it to not being able to see the trees for the forest.

What is more to say that magic is in the blood, or even accurately genes, is a bit short.  I will suffice to say it runs almost deeper than that.  Still rather than getting too technical/technobabble on how I imagine certain aspects of the gift work that might border on spoilers, I’ll leave you to wonder.

The Age of Myths:

Here is just a brief example of one version of an ancestral Thaean creation myth, which most modern Thaeans wouldn’t know to piece together half of, but the scholars have:

In the beginning there was not but the frozen sea, and the burning heavens.  From the fires of creation came Rhan the sun, and from him was split a twin.  Where Rhan possessed great radiant power, endless light, and thought, the other was filled with darkness, and mindless hunger.  Rhan was young, and could not understand this other as his opposite, only a brother, and tried to save him as he sank into the endless depths of the frozen sea, which melted, and churned in Rahn’s futile struggle.

Rhan was left alone in his burning heavens.  He looked upon the deep ocean, and the lands which had risen in his flailing.   He watched as the Abyss tried to consume the world born of his struggles, saw finally that it was hunger without meaning.

He made a new one from the sea, and the stone.  She was his mate, and soul companion, though they could meet only at the edges of creation.  While Rhan watched the day, Laune guarded the night from his brother’s seething hunger beneath the waves.

Many tales go on to speak of other figures, children of these two primordial gods.  Vhael the Light Barer, who became his weary father’s keeper.  Raeah his daughter, and her fiery end.  The Lynx, the Wolf, and the Moon, which also tells vaguely of the coming of the first man, or woman, Yaune.  And why man reigns in all the livable world.

Then there are the fates, numbered as three, of whom Yaune is one.  The fate of Stars, that which is fixed, which beyond mortal influence shall carry on undeterred.  The fate of Man, that of temporal permanence, shapable with great will for a time, but bound inevitably to change.  The fate of Elements, ever shifting, easily shaped for an instant, but so volatile as to be unsustainable.

And now on to Vulgarities:

Language is art, and art is a mater of aesthetics.  I won’t deny cultural norms of our world do play a role at times in influencing my choice, but far more it is a question of using an “ugly” word when “ugly” is the point.  It is not a mater of pulling punches, but landing the ones that mater.  Further the word needs to make sense for the speaker, and the context.  The characters we are dealing with now are (with the exception of children) all quite refined, living in regal context.  They do not throw around crass lowborn swears lightly.

Further sometimes I won’t use a word just because it doesn’t sound right.  Ass is really quite light, but as I said above asses is such a hissy word, really assholes is much better, but then you are going farther into the vulgar.  If someone is knocked on their ass, it has a very different feel more angry and expletive, than if they are knocked on their rear.  Context maters, and there might come a point where that context feels more on target.

I also like to play with language, and how we use it.  Not a part of O&E, but in another story world I have a standing scene where a crass pilot is swearing up a storm at a young prodigy and says, “No fucking way.”  The child’s intentionally dense response is, “What does copulation have to do with it.”

More appropriately in “The Red Book” (working title) which is a part of O&E there is a journal entry in which cunt, cunny, and a father’s favorite pejorative for those who displease him are discussed with some fuming ire.  Goodness I love writing in the voice of Sylvia Grey, she is so delightfully subversive, angry, and yet kind and playful.

Lastly lets talk about the gay:

The euphemism gay never happened in the world of Thaea, and I debate if even the older context of happy will appear, but I think not.  I then never became a pejorative, and with none of this history it was never then reclaimed.  Further there is no Greece, there are consequently no Greek islands, and there is no island of Lesvos.  Consequently there are no lesbians, as that word was also never appropriated or re-appropriated.

Now as already established (by as early as Chapter 2) there are women who love, or otherwise dally with other women.  There are also bisexuals.  Further though not clearly established in that chapter, of course there are men who lie with men.  I choose those words quite intentionally to bring along all the associated frightful cultural connotations that come when living in a world that is largely (painfully) sexually conservative.  It is going to be a problem.

This topic of language is also a specific thing will come up again in another aside (some day.)  I will drop a quote however (that belongs to Emperor Corinth,) and which while it may not seem related, I assure you, it very much is:

It was the women that gave the command to stand down, and yet still the Imperator did not understand.  It was not just wrong, it was not just an order I could not follow or abide, it would not work.  It was a crime – something worse than a crime – all for nothing.  If I hesitated at all to do what was right – however wrong even that was – it forced my hand that innocent blood would be spilled in ignorance, for nothing.  I try to believe those that died by my hand, at least died for something.  It is not always so easy to believe.”

In short, I’ve said before this world isn’t G rated, but here is some more perspective on what to expect in terms of language.

Edit: Made a small correction to properly state the history of euphemism -> pejorative -> reclaimed.  A minor thing, but I care about such details.