Wednesday, April 23, 2014 3 comments

U is for: (The) Unfallen

Quoting the creation myth: “The Evil One persuaded many people to worship the lesser gods, but a few refused. Those few withdrew from others, and the Creator brought them together as a new people. These, the aelfi’in (Unfallen), the Creator gave long and vigorous lives, and their children as well… The people were jealous of The Unfallen, and some sought to kill them, so they hid themselves away in the Deep Forest…”

Among the many misconceptions that folk have about The Unfallen is that they were elves, or immortal, or angels, or Makers. Only the latter was partially true; some Unfallen were Makers, but so were some folk. What is true is that The Unfallen had a much deeper communion with the Creator than did other folk (i.e., the descendants of the fallen). Their lives were truly long, without sickness, the way the Creator originally intended for all people. But over centuries or millennia, Unfallen would grow weary of their earthly existence and yearn for the life they knew was to come, so the Creator made provision for them to lay down their lives. Not all Unfallen were perfect; but for them, each sin was an original sin to be atoned for before the Creator. Theologians continue to wrestle with the implications.

Early on, The Unfallen made their way to the Deep Forest, a vast region extending from the northwestern coast past the Wide River, and a little beyond. Over time, the trees awakened; they would warn The Unfallen of intruders, and even defend against the hostile or discourteous. To this day, few are foolish enough to take from the forest without permission. (The Deep Forest is not so much enchanted as self-aware, although there is little effective difference.)

Toward the end of the Age of Heroes, Captain Chelinn began his unsuccessful attempt to resettle Vlis. Through the age, the Deep Forest expanded a little, near to the ruins of the old city. Exploring the immediate area, Chelinn stumbled across the last settlement of Unfallen. A few of the younger, more adventurous Unfallen befriended Chelinn and traveled with him after he again abandoned Vlis. He attempted to pass his silver-plumed Captain’s helm to Evin, claiming that a resident of the district should have the honor; Evin returned the helm to a protesting Chelinn on the eve of the battle that secured the Seventh Trumpet (Evin was one of the two Unfallen who winded the Trumpet as well).

Soon after the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet, the last of the Unfallen transcended, leaving behind only legends and a forest that is still awake.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 5 comments

T is for: (The) Treaty

Its official name is A Compact Among the Civilized Nations, Concerning the Use of Magic in Battle, but sorcerers (and nearly everyone else) simply call it The Treaty. Signed in the ruins of Camac That Is, dated Year 3825 of the Pearl Throne (PT.3825, or SM.348, as years are reckoned in the Matriarchy), The Treaty forbids the employment of sorcerers in combat, both as sorcerers and as common soldiers.

The Treaty was first proposed by Ak’koyr in PT.3820, after a battle near the market town of Anlayt. The Northern Reach was threatening to overrun Anlayt, which would have left the road to Ak’koyr itself clear. Amon the Red, a sorcerer in Ak’koyr’s military, knew about the bones of a Firedrake nearby; in desperation, he awakened it and ordered it to destroy the Valiant Men of the North (the Reachers’ army). Not knowing the necessary binding spells, nor having pure motives, the dragon killed Amon and then wreaked havoc on both armies. With fighting forces depleted, the two countries called a truce and agreed to remove sorcerers from military service. (The cannon was a recent invention, which made sorcery in wartime less necessary anyway.)

Afterwards, both nations (especially the Northern Reach) championed the idea of a general worldwide ban on sorcery in battle. The Conclave of Sorcerers, whose numbers had begun to decline, embraced the proposal. Other nations were at least agreeable to the idea, and sent delegations to Camac to hammer out the details. The Conclave sent a delegation as well, and inserted a clause that allowed sorcerers to use magic to protect themselves or family members in any conflict. Another exception allows sorcerers to serve in non-combat roles; for example, calling the wind on a naval ship or aiding Healers. Still, the Conclave has since pursued a policy of putting the needs of all Termag above the needs of any nation or locale. Some folk consider the Conclave to be a de facto nation, whose population is scattered among other nations.

As combat magic was a large part of sorcery up to this time, The Treaty actually accelerated the decline of sorcery (rather than protecting the existing numbers, as the Conclave had hoped). Major combat spells were put aside entirely, while simpler spells were repurposed to peaceful use. In the modern age, new and old enemies are driving a renaissance in combat magic. An untrained boy, who awakened an ice dragon to defend his besieged town, triggered the renewed interest—but those stories are available on most eBook sites. :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014 6 comments

S is for: Sorcery

Sorcery, harnessing the classical elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) to produce a physical result, is one of several kinds of magic known on Termag. Others include enchantment (imbuing an object with magical power) and witchcraft (harnessing nature, and working around the edges of Chaos magic). In ancient times, Making was a power both coveted and feared, as Maker could create anything they could imagine. Chaos magic (the polar opposite of Making) includes weather control; it is known, but not understood. Sorcerers generally believe that the rules of Chaos magic are too complex for the human mind to grasp, and attempts to harness it tend to prove that theory.

The Three Principles govern sorcery (and to a lesser extent, other kinds of magic). These principles are:

1) Principle of Necessity—there must be a need for the magic performed. Many sorcerers point out that the principle itself is rather loose at times, and includes the need to practice (especially for apprentices). Rogue sorcerers have a very loose interpretation, that allows them to use magic for unethical purposes.

2) Principle of Power (or Intent)—some suggest that this should be two principles, but traditionally they are combined. It does make sense: the person performing sorcery must have both the Talent for sorcery, and the intent to produce some result.

3) Principle of Closure—a spell begun must be closed. Some spells close themselves; for example, a Finding spell is closed when the sorcerer locates the missing object. Others (like Sleep or the False Dawn) must be explicitly closed. Any open-ended (permanent) spell must be cast as an enchantment.

A sorcerer typically undergoes six years of training as an apprentice. The distinctions of junior, intermediate, and senior apprentice are a rough guide to the capabilities of an apprentice, and each period lasts roughly two years. Intermediate apprentices begin to learn more complex spells that combine two elements, and can maintain two to four spells simultaneously. Some seniors can hold up spells in their sleep.

After six years, apprentices appear at the Gathering for testing. The testing is more practical than theoretical, and those doing the testing note how well the apprentice does with each element. In the end, if the apprentice passes, the testers choose a “primary element” for the new sorcerer, and indicate that primary element with a colored sash: brown for Earth, white for Air, red for Fire, blue for Water. The sorcerer then takes the color of that element as a title; for example, Bailar the Blue or Jira the White.

Sunday, April 20, 2014 4 comments

R is for: (Captain) Rietha (#AtoZchallenge)

Captain Rietha may well be the single most influential figure of the modern age. Born Lady Rietha, of House Chelor in Dacia, Rietha was Chelinn’s great-granddaughter (through his adopted daughter Sarna). As a child, she learned a great deal about tactics from the retired Captain Chelinn, and grew into an excellent soldier and tactician.

In those days, skirmishes and raids against (and by) the other cities of the southern coast were common, and Rietha’s competence in battle meant she advanced quickly. In her twenty-third year, she was granted the silver-plumed helmet of the Captains—and by coincidence, the same helm had belonged to Chelinn in his day. Rietha was assigned an unpopulated region—in her case, Stolevan, a few days’ sail west of Dacia.

As was common for Captains with unpopulated territories, she set out on an exploratory tour; they sometimes found a purpose on these journeys. Sailing east and south, her caravel was caught in a major storm and blown aground in the South Sea Islands. The ship required extensive repairs, which gave Rietha time to observe the local customs. To her surprise, she found that the Islands were a matriarchy. It was then that Rietha asked her crew the famous question: Must women rule only in the south? Why not in the west as well?

Returning to Dacia, she made careful plans. Her great-grandfather had attempted to resettle his territory in Vlis, upriver from Ak’koyr, in his day, but had failed. So Rietha gathered people, both women and men, who shared her vision of a new kind of nation. About eight hundred people from the coastal cities answered the call.

The phrase “social engineering” is unknown on Termag, but Rietha’s attempt at it was successful. To establish the tradition of women in charge, from the household to the throne, she used laws until they were set enough to become custom. Compulsory education, both for children and immigrant adults, was an innovation that has been copied by several other nations (most notably the Northern Reach); besides letters and numbers, schools taught history and the social norms of the Stolevan Matriarchy. Thus, the Matriarchy has a very high literacy rate. (In the Matriarchy, it is a truism that since men cannot fight for status and position, they devote their energies to the good of the nation, and all prosper as a result. Scholars in other nations suggest that universal literacy may be the actual key to the Matriarchy’s strength.)

Although Rietha renamed the city Queensport, using the old name for the nation as a whole, she never took the title of Queen. Respecting her decision, she is simply called the First Matriarch. After the Council of Captains agreed to dissolve, Rietha sent her helm to House Chelor, where it has a place of honor alongside Captain Chelinn’s sword. When she died, her final resting place became a shrine of sorts; women (and some men) leave prayer candles with requests for guidance and wisdom.

Saturday, April 19, 2014 4 comments

Q is for: Queensport (#AtoZchallenge)

Queensport, formerly Stolevan, is the capital of the Stolevan Matriarchy in the modern age.

In the time of Camac That Was, Stolevan’s population was even larger than Camac’s, and was the most important city in the southern half of the empire. Farms sent massive amounts of grain and forestry products down the Wide River, and Stolevan’s shipbuilding facilities rivaled Koyr’s. The important Conclave of Sorcerers had its headquarters in the Great Keep, standing guard over the mouth of the Wide.

Like most cities, Stolevan was devastated during The Madness. Protector Kontir was able to preserve the Keep, but soon abandoned it for the relative stability in the Northern Reach. Old Stolevan remained largely empty throughout the Age of Heroes, sheltering only the occasional raider or squatter.

About a decade before the Council of Captains agreed to dissolve, Captain Rietha established the Stolevan Matriarchy. Once the population began to spread north, they renamed the city Queensport, using its old name for the entire nation. With an agreeable climate, and plenty of good farmland nearby, immigrants poured in (many of them the poor of Ak’koyr and women of the East, with hopes of freedom and land ownership).

In modern times, Queensport is once again Termag’s most populous city. Again, the city distributes the bounty of upriver farms across the world, builds ships, and is the home of the Conclave. Rietha established a tradition of open borders; citizens are free to emigrate, and foreigners are free to immigrate. (Often, men leave and women come, both seeking opportunities they do not enjoy at home, but the ramifications of the Matriarchy’s social structure could easily fill two or three blog posts.)

Friday, April 18, 2014 7 comments

P is for: Protectors (and Captains) (#AtoZchallenge)

Maintaining a far-flung empire without instant communication and rapid transport has always been a problem. Rulers, of necessity, have to delegate. Camac’s rule was no different: it was up to trusted governors in remote areas to uphold the law and keep the peace. However, Camac added a second layer of insurance.

In the time of Camac That Was, sorcery was an integral part of the military. All sorcerers were expected to serve time under command, and were subject to be recalled in time of need. Indeed, the leadership of the Conclave of Sorcerers, the Protectors, were also among the highest-ranking officers of Camac’s military. The nine Protectors were stationed in keeps, scattered across the empire. The First Protector, the acknowledged leader of leaders, dwelt in Camac’s Imperial Keep. Protectors wore a cape, rather than a sash, as their badge of office, taking the color of their primary element.

Under each Protector were five or six Captains, fifty in all. The title of Captain was given to those officers skilled in strategy, tactics, and diplomacy (similar to Knights in medieval Europe). They had no rank in the regular military hierarchy, but were authorized to call up to 10,000 soldiers to serve as needed (which gave them a rank equivalent to Grand Commander). The Captains were distinguished by a helmet with a silver plume.

The function of Protectors and Captains was to act in the name of the Pearl Throne during any local or regional crisis, greatly reducing the time that the empire needed to mobilize to meet a threat or emergency. Five Protectors in remote or restive (i.e. Eastern) provinces each had one of the Eyes of Byula; the First Protector in Camac had the sixth. The Eyes allowed their possessors to speak directly with one another, further reducing reaction times.

After The Madness, three Protectors and ten Captains survived. After the greatest crisis of all, it was up to them to preserve the empire. In that they failed, but they did manage to preserve some knowledge and culture for future generations. The Protectors continued to be, as of old, equally women and men; the Captains less so, but it was not uncommon for women to wear the silver-plumed helm. Unfortunately, the rest of the world descended into patriarchy through The Lost Years.

Through the Age of Heroes, Protectors and Captains were seen as essential peacekeepers and diplomats, even if they did not always live up to expectations. But with the Goblins finally exterminated for good, and the dreams of Camac Reborn fading, Protectors became little more than leaders of the Conclave of Sorcerers. Toward the end of the age, many Captains began to view their office as little more than ceremonial, a vestige of a bygone empire with no modern function.

In the ruins of Camac, the Council met—as it turned out, for the last time. The words of Captain Rietha (by then the founder and ruler of the Stolevan Matriarchy) describe the sentiment of most at that last meeting:

We have fought the good fight. We could not restore that which was long lost, but we preserved what we could. We kept the peace where possible, and maintained order where necessary. This was an age of heroes, but it is time for a new age. Folk will always look to Camac That Was as a golden age, and we can go our own way, knowing that women and men live on to remember those past glories.

Shortly after, the Captains voted to put aside the silver-plumed helm. But for many, the words of Rietha resonated, and the phrase “age of heroes” stuck.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 7 comments

O is for: Oakendrake (#AtoZchallenge)

[I had a different O entry written, but I think more people will like this one.]

Oakendrake: see Deep Forest Tree Dragon.

One of the Lesser Dragons, the Deep Forest Tree Dragon is known as the Oakendrake by most folk (and indeed, just about everywhere outside a book of dragonlore). As the stuffier name implies, it is found mostly in the Deep Forest or nearby, and makes its nest in trees. They are among the largest of Lesser Dragons; the largest are an entire reach (roughly 6 feet or 1.8m) from nose to tail tip. Their wingspan is almost twice their body length, but they fly well even through the thickest parts of the Deep Forest. They are green or brown, and can change color in that range to provide camouflage.

One thing that sets Oakendrakes apart from other dragons, is that they are often very curious and even friendly toward those humans who trek through the Deep Forest. They often follow hikers, and many folk consider that to be good luck. This behavior may be a relic from the days when the Unfallen roamed the forest. Although even Lesser Dragons are no one’s pet, many old paintings of Unfallen often include an Oakendrake lying near the subjects or even draped across their shoulders. As the Unfallen were known to commune with other forest creatures, this is not as surprising as it might seem. Of course, the dragons may now be mainly interested in what food the humans are carrying.

Oakendrakes are omnivorous, and have no known predators (although scavengers may prey on the sick or dying, and eggs unattended are always at risk). They build wide nests, high in oak trees. Some scholars believe them to be the eyes and ears of the Deep Forest, carrying important information to the farthest reaches of the forest.

Like all Lesser Dragons, Oakendrakes are thought to innately understand human speech. Legends and lore claim that those who dwelt with the Unfallen would learn to speak at least a few words.


As a child, Bailar the Blue probably saw a few Oakendrakes in his hikes into the Deep Forest. If he (and Mik and Sura) survive the battle they have waiting for them in Book 5, then they will all meet an Oakendrake in Book 6. I need to get writing!

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