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Showing posts with label AZchallenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AZchallenge. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 3 comments

Z is for: Zharcon the White (#AtoZchallenge)


Zharcon the White is the leader of the Westmarch Conclave, and the mentor for Mik’s friend Charn sim Bas.

Accidental Sorcerers does not record it, but Zharcon met Bailar the Blue at the annual Gathering of the Conclave, through their apprentices Mik and Charn (who quickly became friends). The two sorcerers soon began a Conclave Romance, a temporary liaison that is common at the Gathering. In cities like Westmarch, many local sorcerers are at least distantly related to each other; thus, sorcerers will marry non-sorcerous folk (as did Charn’s father) or carry on temporary relationships with sorcerers from far away. The Conclave encourages the latter, as it is the most reliable way of finding children with Talent; it is considered an honor for a sorceress to bear children. (Some members of the Conclave are a little overzealous about such, and have urged Bailar to encourage his apprentices to mate as soon as possible regardless of how it might impact Sura’s studies… as you might expect, Bailar responded with strong words.)

At home, Zharcon has a delicate position. The Conclave is the only remaining vestige of Camac’s culture that still assumes absolute gender equality. Westmarch (known as Westmark in the time of Camac That Was) was re-settled after a rebellion was put down early in the Matriarchy’s history; the losers chose exile and founded their own nation. Thus, Westmarch is nearly as patriarchal as Stolevan is matriarchal, and their government has a hard time accepting a woman in charge of such an important organization.

On the other hand, the Conclave (since The Treaty was ratified) developed a policy of serving the greater good of all Termag above national or local loyalties. The Westmarch sorcerers are less than enthusiastic about Prince Nalfur’s expansionist ambitions; they were glad to see the winter campaign against Stolevan thwarted, and even happier that the Mik had technically not violated The Treaty in doing so. For Zharcon, the refusal of Westmarch’s government to take her seriously as a leader diminishes any nationalist feeling among the sorcerers. It’s not that they are disloyal to Westmarch; both Zharcon and the other sorcerers do think a strong but peaceful Westmarch would be a better counter to any potential Stolevan expansionism, and work toward that end.

Monday, April 28, 2014 3 comments

Y is for: Yes (ways to say it) (#AtoZchallenge)

This post is really about dialects and idioms. Although Camac’s empire is long past, the language that it spread across the world either replaced local languages or is kept as a trade language. Still, over centuries, local dialects and idioms have developed. In my Termag stories, the way that people say “yes” is perhaps the most obvious example. In the southern nations, the Stolevan Matriarchy and the Alliance cities, urban and educated rural folk say “indeed” (although “yes” is used to mean “it will be done”); rural folk use “yar.” Northerners say “aye,” and Easterners say “yes” (or “oh, yes” for strong agreement).

Rural folk often use Low Speech (or Old Speech among scholars), a form of the Western tongue that was likely spoken through The Lost Years. The distinguishing feature of Low Speech is that speakers put the verb phrase at the end of their sentences. There are plenty of examples in Water and Chaos, as Mik’s aunt (and to a lesser extent, his father) both use Low Speech. Some folk, including those who speak Low Speech, consider it a mark of ignorance and are embarrassed to use it among more educated folk.


Idioms can be a challenge (and fun as well) for writers. Done right, they convey the meaning without too much explanation, while emphasizing the “you’re not at home” feeling. Common idioms in Termag’s Western tongue include:

  • Peace and harmony: a formal greeting, once a way to offer a temporary truce to an enemy. “All peace unto you” is the expected response (and the old way of accepting the offer of truce).
  • Longest journey: a euphemism for death, taken from a line of an epic poem: “I will soon begin the longest journey, the one from which there is no return.” (The poem in question survives only in fragments.)
  • Lucky man’s supper: fish, leeks, potatoes. Used mostly in the rural parts of the Matriarchy. This may refer to a “lucky man” bringing home both fish and leeks from the river, saving money that otherwise would have been spent at the market. (Most rural folk have a potato patch.)
  • Making the wind: idle chatter, like we might say “shooting the breeze.”
  • The tide comes in, the tide goes out: acknowledging that events are beyond one’s control. Similar to “what will be, will be,” or “roll with the changes.”
Next: Z is for: Zharcon the White

Saturday, April 26, 2014 7 comments

X is for: Xorsecc (#AtoZchallenge)

This was actually a place (with a name) before I started the Challenge. It’s the ancient town in Water and Chaos.

Xorsecc is one of the larger settlements (these days, calling it a “city” is stretching) on the Spine of the World, a chain of long mountainous islands in the Western Sea. The narrow passages between the islands are logical spots for a town, and Xorsecc is situated just south of the northernmost passage; this passage is the most direct route from Port Joy to the Archipelago (a chain of islands farther south and west). Mik’s first impression of Xorsecc is recorded in Water and Chaos:

Mik looked around the town. Everything about it said old. The stone buildings seemed to shrink into the hillsides, or sag with exhaustion. Clumps of grass grew here and there, but Mik saw no trees. The streets were flagstone, kept up as well as any street in Exidy or even Queensport.

The name is a holdover from the most ancient of Termag’s languages. The X is pronounced with a tongue click, and the cc at the end with a throat click. These sounds are not present in modern Western, and so Mik can only approximate the pronunciation as “Chakorsect.”

The Spine is perhaps the longest continuously settled part of Termag. Like everywhere else, it was hit hard in The Madness, but (as in the Alliance cities) the survivors were able to keep order. Even then, the people were at least partially Westernized. Only vestiges of the ancient tongues spoken there, or native cultural practices, remain. There is no central government on the Spine; each town manages its own affairs. Freeholder farms may or may not be under the jurisdiction of a particular town.

The Spine has no trees (mostly grass, reeds, and scrub). However, they mine a black rock called firestone that burns hotter than wood. The smoke ruins food, so they cook on top of their fireboxes.

The steep hillsides are suitable for raising goats; crops cover what flat spaces there may be. Even without trees, the denizens of the Spine build small boats; they are usually wicker frames with oilcloth or goatskins stretched over them. Others are essentially large copper bowls, and a few are even made of glass. These little coracles are the foundation of the Spine’s fishing fleet.

Xorsecc’s residents earn their living by fishing, farming, making minor repairs to passing ships, and renting houses to travelers. There are more houses than people in town, so property is cheap to either rent or purchase. Raiders and the like often have houses in Xorsecc, either as convenient quarters between jobs or as hideouts. There is little love lost between the permanent residents and these temporary denizens.

Next: Y is for: Yes (ways to say it)

Friday, April 25, 2014 5 comments

W is for: Woldland (#AtoZchallenge)

Woldland lies on the eastern side of the Gulf of Camac, a vast grassland of plains and rolling hills. The inhabitants, the Wolds, are a semi-nomadic people who herd cattle across the lands. The coastal town of Mastil serves as both a capital and a market.


In the time of Camac That Was, Woldland was divided into East Bay and Perinia provinces. Away from the coast, the land was divided into cattle ranches that provided beef to the entire empire.

The Madness, for whatever reason, did not hit the Eastern provinces as hard. On the other hand, Eastern farmers have always had difficulty in the dry weather off the coast, and mad souls destroyed many of the crops. Thus, while survivors in the West and North had no trouble feeding themselves, Easterners faced starvation (exacerbated by nascent “lords” who had little regard for the welfare of their subjects).

Before The Madness, the Eastern word wol’it (literally, a sense that anything would be better than the present circumstances) was used ironically or humorously. People would apply it to themselves (similar to how we might say “just shoot me”), or mockingly to others who were seen to overreact to minor setbacks (“drama queen”). But in the early part of The Lost Years, Easterners began to use it seriously. Westerners often pronounced the word as woldt, and it softened over time to wold and became the name of the people who migrated to the grasslands.

Meanwhile, the cattle lived on. As they broke down fences, and nobody came to repair them, they began to roam freely. Jira the White, in an attempt to alleviate the suffering (even though all the Eastern provinces had declared independence), sent word that the cattle were there for the herding (or eating). Starving Easterners began to make their way south, and over time were joined by Western and a few Northern folk.

Age of Heroes

Within a generation, the old province names were all but forgotten; the region was simply called the Wold Lands. The Wolds’ language was primarily Eastern, but mixed with Western and became its own language over time.

During this time, the Wolds were nomadic; they drove the herds north in spring and south in fall. They adapted a maze of sea caves on the northern coast as a summer home, and named it Tirfa-Wold (literally, Wolds’ summer dwelling). A large forest clearing, not far from Armyr (one of the Alliance cities), became Sufta-Wold (Wolds’ winter dwelling). These were the primary points of contact with the outside world for the Wolds; they traded cattle and exchanged news with nearby folk.

Modern Woldland

With Termag once again becoming more civilized, the Wolds found themselves needing to formalize a government, if only to have a way to communicate with other governments. Internally, each drive-clan manages its own affairs, but there was a need for an entity that could speak where needed for all drive-clans. And so, Woldland was born. Each drive-clan sends a representative to a council. The council in turn is authorized to govern how clans interact with the outside world.

Formal education is somewhat haphazard; each drive-clan decides for itself what is needed. A growing number of clans are deciding that literacy is a good idea, especially when dealing with foreigners.

Next: X is for: Xorsecc

Thursday, April 24, 2014 3 comments

V is for: Vlis (#AtoZchallenge)

In the time of Camac That Was, Vlis was a small but important city, upriver from Koyr. Surrounded by forest, Vlis supplied Koyr with the lumber needed for its shipbuilding industry. Situated near the Deep Forest, Koyr was also the primary contact (and trading point) with the Unfallen who dwelt in the forest.

An interesting and disturbing rumor dates back to the beginning of The Madness. Shortly before people began going mad, Red Vlis (a title meaning roughly “Lord Mayor of Vlis”) gathered a few hundred citizens, who boarded barges going downriver. Anyone who asked was given the same explanation: “we seek haven.” The refugees debarked at the north landing and marched north on the Royal Road, but none of them ever arrived in the Northern Reach. They seem to have disappeared; the most common explanation is that The Madness took them and they perished in the middle of nowhere.

Near the end of the Age of Heroes, Captain Chelinn (whose official domain included Vlis) attempted to resettle the city. The attempt ultimately failed. Soon after, Chelinn wrote: My error was this: instead of finding people who were for Vlis, I gathered those who were against Ak’koyr. Animosity was not enough to overcome the hardships. Still, the effort was not all waste. For one thing, Chelinn stumbled upon the last settlement of the Unfallen, dwelling nearby in the Deep Forest. For another, he wrote copious notes about the resettlement, and his great-granddaughter Captain Rietha used that information wisely in her successful resettlement of Stolevan (Queensport).

In the modern age, Koyr has begun resettling Vlis, once again to provide lumber for shipbuilding (and for structures in the rapidly growing city). With Koyr actively providing resources, it seems that the resettlement will be successful this time around.

Next: W is for: Woldland

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 3 comments

U is for: (The) Unfallen (#AtoZchallenge)

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.

Next: V is for: Vlis

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 5 comments

T is for: (The) Treaty (#AtoZchallenge)

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. :-)

Next: U is for: (The) Unfallen

Monday, April 21, 2014 6 comments

S is for: Sorcery (#AtoZchallenge)

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.

Next: T is for: (The) Treaty

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.

Next: S is for: Sorcery

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, she 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.)

Next: R is for: (Captain) Rietha

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.

Next: Q is for: Queensport

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!

Next: P is for: Protectors (and Captains)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7 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.

Next: O is for: Oakendrake

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.

Next: N is for: (The) Northern Reach

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-post, 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.

Next: M is for: (The) Madness

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.

Next: L is for: Lesser Moon (and Greater Moon)

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.

Next: K is for: Koyr (and Ak’koyr)

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. ;-)

Next: J is for: Jira the White

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 5 comments

H is for: History (#AtoZchallenge)

Fantasy can be thought of as an expression of humanity’s yearning for something greater—whether it’s finding the hero within us, or a power beyond ourselves. Part of that yearning is the desire to look back to a golden age—or all too often, to create one where one never existed (like so many in America try to do with the 1950s). The ancient Greeks codified it in their own lore, naming the Ages of Man: Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age.

Fantasy, especially epic fantasy, represents this desire by depicting a true Golden Age (or at least one thought to be true). In Termag’s case, the Golden Age is known as “the time of Camac That Was.” Little is truly known about this time, that ended fifteen hundred years before the end of the Age of Heroes, but the hints that survived are tantalizing. The empire depended on magic more than technology, but basic medical techniques (including hygiene and germ theory) were known and survived the passing of the age. Camac may also have solved many social problems that we continue to struggle with on Earth. Camac That Was, and much of Termag’s population, perished in a cataclysmic pandemic known as The Madness.

The Silver Age, the Age of Heroes, is roughly two millennia of attempting to rebuild. Those efforts were hampered by both infighting and other round of Goblin Wars, and ultimately the dreams of Camac Reborn were abandoned.

In the Bronze Age, or “modern times” as the folk call it, people have not reached the peak of ancient Camac… or perhaps they have, but don’t realize it. (As far as the Iron Age goes, Termag may never get there. Iron is rare and precious.)

Next: I is for: Isenbund

Tuesday, April 08, 2014 8 comments

G is for: Gods (#AtoZchallenge)

Termag has a number of religions, but I’ve delved deepest into the Western tradition. An abbreviated version of the creation myth may be the best way to describe it:
Before there was a before, the Creator spoke into being the River of Time, that flows to the Sea of Eternity. Then the Creator made Termag and the other worlds, and placed them in a barge. He made the Tiller to steer the barge, and he may be seen in the night sky. … Then the Creator gave life to the worlds, and the people came forth. They ate of the good things that grew in the world, and were happy.

As the people grew in numbers, they could no longer feed everyone by roaming over the land. And so there were quarrels, and fights. The Creator was troubled by what they did, and sent the lesser gods (in some traditions, the Teachers, or Great Powers) to teach the people how to be civilized. The Creator charged the people to listen to the lesser gods, to respect their words, but not to worship them. …

But the Evil One, he who taught pride, said in his heart: “We are far above the people. Why should they not worship us?” And he tried to stir the other Teachers against the Creator. … But only the Teacher of Tools joined the Evil One, and only for a time, and soon repented. (Thus it is that all tools may be used for both good or evil.)
It is also said that the Trickster, who taught jokes and pranks, may have joined with the Evil One, but never admitted it.

Among folk, it is customary to make a warding gesture (palms together, then spread apart) when mentioning a lesser god—especially the Trickster, who is thought to inspire pranks without shielding the pranksters from the consequences. Some traditions venerate ancestors as well.

An older religion holds that Termag is a living being, perhaps an avatar of the Creator. The Dawn Greeters, who live on a peninsula at the easternmost reach of the continent, worship the sun as a manifestation of the Creator, who continues to bring life to the world.

Next: H is for: History


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