Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2 comments

Guest Post: Icy Sedgwick

We pause in the headlong rush of #AtoZchallenge posts for a guest post. Icy Sedgwick has a new book out, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, featuring… mummies! Icy writes the best mummy stories, and she’s ready to share her thoughts about her favorite monsters…

It sometimes feels like horror monsters have been reduced to vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons and, at a push, ghosts. You just need to look at the classic Universal horrors of the 1930s, or the Hammer cycle of the late 1950s and early 1960s, to realise there any many more monsters to choose from. Personally, my favourite will always be the mummy. Look at Boris Karloff’s charismatic portrayal of Im-Ho-Tep in The Mummy (1932), in which the undead priest was a far more attractive romantic lead than the pathetic ‘hero’. Christopher Lee turned his Kharis into a formidable powerhouse in The Mummy of 1958. Even Arnold Loos’ mummy in The Mummy (1999) was an awesome prospect, simply because he wanted his old love back.

I love mummies for three reasons. Unlike vampires, who are the aristocracy of the horror world, or zombies who are sometimes coded as the working class, mummies are quite classless – not all mummies were royalty, after all. Mummies belong to another world, and another time, and their exoticism adds to their appeal. Furthermore, they don’t necessarily have to suffer the same limitations as other monsters. Aside from cats, Loos’ Imhotep fears nothing, and is all powerful. He isn’t restricted by time of day, or the time of the month. Finally, mummies actually exist. Granted, they’re not rampaging around a city near you, but it’s possible to visit a museum and see one for yourself. The mummy, even in its inert state, represents something more tangible than that of the vampire.

It was my love of mummies that led me to include them in The Necromancer’s Apprentice. I’ve written several flash stories about mummies in the past, and they were part of the story from the very beginning – it was after watching The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that I thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to replace the sorcerer with a necromancer, and the brooms with mummies?” They have an interesting relationship with the dead anyway, being inert until life is returned to them, yet they possess an element of consciousness that is denied to the zombie.

The mummies in the novella aren’t necessarily ‘traditional’ – the mummies are those of the royal family, and they’re kept in the House of the Long Dead, where the necromancer general acts as an intermediary should anyone need to consult with them post mortem. They appear in the story because the Crown Prince has decided he wants to include them in his Coronation parade, and so they need to be resurrected for this purpose. The job is such a big one that the necromancer general needs an assistant, and so she hires Jyx, a magickal protégée from the Academy to act as her apprentice. Of course, things don’t go according to plan but if they did it would have been a much shorter book.

I’m never sure exactly when or why mummies became viewed as monstrous, and while they are in The Necromancer’s Apprentice (although not through any fault of their own), I’ll still always have a soft spot for bandaged marauders.

What about you? What are your favourite monsters?


Icy Sedgwick was born in the North East of England, and lives and works in Newcastle. She has been writing with a view to doing so professionally for over ten years, and has had several stories included in anthologies, including Short Stack and Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar & Other Stories.

She spends her non-writing time working on a PhD in Film Studies, considering the use of set design in contemporary horror. Icy had her first book, a pulp Western named The Guns of Retribution, published in 2011, and her horror fantasy, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, was released in March 2014.






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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5 comments

N is for: (The) Northern Reach (#AtoZchallenge)

The Northern Reach is a long peninsula on the west side of the Straits between the Northern Sea and the Gulf of Camac. It stretches north, then bends east, sheltering the Straits from the worst storms of summer.

Throughout history, the Northern Reach has been renowned for its wines. Until the early Age of Heroes, it was a rural, pastoral region of farms and hillside vineyards. North Keep was the only real population center in those days, the nearby harbor a military outpost. But as Isenbund began to freeze, and the Northerners relocated to the Reach, the outpost became a town. Its name, Phylok, honored the Captain of Isenbund who helped to preserve the few scraps of the old order that did survive.

Through the Age of Heroes, wars and skirmishes with both Ak’koyr and some of the nearby Eastern city-states were common. Ak’koyr managed to conquer the Reach on two occasions, and hold it as a vassal state for a few decades, but eventually the Northerners would rise up and regain their independence.

The sporadic fighting continued into the modern age, for about 350 years. After Amon the Red awakened a Firedrake during one particular battle, devastating both armies, both sides called a truce that began a long (and wary, at first) peace. That particular battle led to the signing of The Treaty, which bans sorcerers from warfare.

To this day, “Reacher” wines command a premium price in faraway corners of Termag. Other exports include gold, copper, and wheat.

Monday, April 14, 2014 6 comments

M is for: (The) Madness (#AtoZchallenge)

The Madness is the common name for the cataclysm that put an end to Camac That Was, and nearly wiped out all humanity on Termag. Exactly what it was, or what caused it, is something that alchemists and philosophers debate without end. Many in the modern age assume that it was a particularly virulent pandemic, perhaps carried from another world by a sorcerer. Others speculate that Camac found a way to combine the powers of Fire and Water, and the contradiction itself was enough to drive the world mad.

What little is actually known comes from fragmentary records dating to the beginning of The Lost Years. It seems to have begun in the western reaches of the empire, and spread like wildfire across the known world. Many places only had a few days’ advance warning, if that. Over half the people were stricken, and were immediately driven mad. They often set upon their fellows (sane or not), and some of those who survived the horror took their own lives. The mad who were not slain (by their own hand or another’s) eventually died on their own after a year. The pandemic, if pandemic it was, may have lost strength as it journeyed east—it was said that the Eastern provinces were not as hard-hit, while the Land of the Dawn Greeters and the South Sea Islands escaped the worst effects.

However it was, the survivors numbered perhaps five percent of the original population. It was up to that tiny remnant to rebuild, and thus began the Age of Heroes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014 6 comments

L is for: Lesser Moon (and Greater Moon) (#AtoZchallenge)

Quoth the creation mythos: “When the Creator saw what the Evil One had done, he took away the name and office of the Teacher of Pride, but the Evil One would not yet repent. So in his divine wrath, the Creator broke the Evil One in two, and cast both pieces into the night sky, and they chase each other to this day. Thus do those who lay a curse invoke the power of the moon.”

As the Evil One no longer has a name, neither do the moons that represent him. Few people in modern times think of the Evil One shining down upon them at night; if they do, they thank the Creator that he was able to make some good use of the rebellious lesser god. Still, in augury, the Moon rune represents a curse. Usually, the curse becomes the central part of the augury, with the other runes perhaps helping to explain the nature of the curse. An ancient Northern practice placed a Moon rune atop a spear, which was driven into the ground where an enemy could see it. The cursing-pole, as they called it, accompanied a spoken or written invocation that named the cursed one(s) and the punishment sought from the Creator and the lesser gods.

For the most part, Termag’s folk have been uninterested in astronomy. Other worlds are known, and sorcerers occasionally travel to them (deliberately or otherwise). In later years, that has begun to change, but the equivalent of Apollo 11 is a long way off.

Saturday, April 12, 2014 6 comments

K is for: Koyr and Ak'koyr (#AtoZchallenge)

Situated on the western Gulf of Camac, only a few days’ sail from the capital, Koyr was the third-largest city in the empire. It was primarily a shipbuilding center. Lumber from Vlis was floated down the Vliskoyr River to Koyr, providing a ready supply of raw materials. (On the southern coast, Stolevan was supplied by forests along the Wide River.)

Koyr’s distinctive features were the Iron Gate (a great treasure) and the acropolis just outside the city. Built on a high hill, it had seven walls rising up the hill like a layer cake. The hill itself was a vast underground city, riddled with hallways and rooms. The upper reaches held granaries and the like.

During The Madness, Captain Anlayt evacuated the sane to the acropolis, where they waited out the destruction in relative comfort. Once things settled down, the survivors removed the Iron Gate and set it up in place of the gate in the topmost wall. They renamed their home and refuge Ak’koyr (Koyr Above). As a safety measure, Captain Anlayt ordered all Koyr’s mad to be slaughtered, and their bodies thrown in the harbor. This injustice led the souls of the mad to walk Koyr for centuries, and the old city could not be resettled until the shades finally began to pass away some 2300 years later.

Still, with a large population of survivors, and ambition to match, Ak’koyr quickly became the chief city during the Age of Heroes. Many of the ruling families saw themselves as Camac Reborn, and made many attempts over the centuries to re-establish the empire under new rulers. The Conclave of Sorcerers moved its headquarters to Ak’koyr from Stolevan (which was in ruins), and those Captains whose territories were yet unsettled often made Ak’koyr their home.

Unlike Camac, which sought to provide all its citizens with a reasonable standard of living, Ak’koyr demanded much from but gave little to the least fortunate among them. Seeking some measure of freedom, some began to inhabit the lower reaches of the underground. They named their passages Nightwalk, and it became a de facto city within a city.

By the end of the Age of Heroes, Ak’koyr began to give up on the dream of empire. Their dominion always covered much of the Gulf, and there were brief periods where they had the Northern Reach and a few nearby Eastern provinces under their heel. There were several further attempts to reconquer at least the Northern Reach, but a few more centuries left Ak’koyr content to rule itself.

A generation before Accidental Sorcerers begins, the last of the shades faded from Koyr proper. Poor folk began to resettle the old city, claiming choice property and triggering a land rush. The old order was upended, and Ak’koyr became little more than a museum piece.

Friday, April 11, 2014 7 comments

J is for: Jira the White (#AtoZchallenge)

Jira (“noonday sun” or “brilliant”) was Protector of the North during The Madness and its aftermath. Historians credit her with preserving much of what survived of Camac’s knowledge and customs for future generations. Little is known about her personal life, as she used her journal to record the events of the moment.

With the verified death of Her Sublime Majesty, as the only surviving Protector in or near the Gulf of Camac, the burden of ruling what was left of Camac fell to Jira. Despite repeated attempts to undermine her authority, primarily by Captain Anlayt of Ak’koyr, she was able to maintain order in the North and repel raiding parties from the East. It was through her efforts that much of the remnant of Isenbund relocated to the Northern Reach, and she accidentally established Woldland.

She bore a child by a liaison with Arbul the Blue, one of the only surviving mages of Camac proper, and others with Captain Phylok of Isenbund.

The web serial “The Lost Years” (on this blog) is primarily Jira’s story.

Thursday, April 10, 2014 7 comments

I is for: Isenbund (#AtoZchallenge)

Northerners dwelt in the chill isles of the Faraway North for longer than history can record. Over time, Camac absorbed the North into its empire, “and turned us into tall, pale Westerners.” Most Northerners lived in or near Isenbund, although each island had its own market village.

In the years leading up to The Madness, the North grew noticeably colder. Crops began to fail, and the North began importing food from the rest of the empire. After The Madness, the remnant was able to feed itself for a decade, but then came the summer that Isenbund’s harbor never thawed. Most Northerners relocated to the Northern Reach, but a handful opted to die in their ancestral city. The epic poem The Lament for Isenbund tells of the hardships they faced, and the yearning of those who departed, that their descendants might return one day. Isenbund became “the Icebound,” and even the Northerners accepted the name change over time.

In modern times, the North has begun to thaw… that book is written, and soon to be published. ;-)


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