The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Qu'orthseth

The demon Qu’orthseth — known in some parts as Akorzef or Cahorsus, and affectionately called Cory by its human companion (not exactly its master) — goes way back in my writing, back to a short story I sketched out and never finished, long before I wrote any of the novels. The name Qu’orthseth, admittedly, was a joke, a parody of such over-apostrophed names in fantasy fiction.

But Big Q itself (it is asexual, about eight foot tall, and wine-red) was first titled ‘the red beast’ in a tale I intended to write of Corad of Lorj, one of the sons of Saj and Marana, who are the protagonists of ‘The Eyes of the Wind’ and the upcoming ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’ Essentially, the idea was for the demon to be a caregiver for its senile human master, keeping the elderly wizardly alive via less than ethical means. Why? Because as long as the old man held onto life, the demon could remain in our world — much preferable to returning to its home!

I never followed through on developing that tale but Q did show up in a different story, ‘The Book, the Beast, and the Burglar.’ By the time I got that short piece to where I considered it complete, I recognized it really was the beginning of a novel (that happens to me rather frequently). The novel became ‘The Ways of Wizardry,’ and it detailed how Qu’orthseth and the wizard Im came to be bound to each other. Now Im and the demon have shown up, a thousand years later, in ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’

And both are near the ends of their lives, though still reasonably vigorous and capable, magically and physically. The original ‘red beast’ story would have taken place twenty years or so after the events in ‘Jewels;’ the question for me now is whether to follow on with that scenario (even though I might never get it written) or have Qu’orthseth come to a different end in the final pages of the novel-in-progress.

I’ve put in quite a bit to ‘humanize’ the demon, to show that a millennium among men and, especially, as a companion to Im, has rubbed off on an essentially amoral creature. So a ‘sacrifice’ at this point is very tempting. It also seems just a tad cheap but, after all, we all have to die sometime. Even demons. It does save it from being whisked back to its home, too, and I can admittedly think of other (and maybe better?) scenarios for Im’s final years.

So it is likely Qu’orthseth will meet its end in this novel. This will not prevent it from appearing in all those stories set in the thousand years between ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ and ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’ That, you may count on.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Nobles and Names

In ‘The Crocodile’s Son’ and ‘The Eyes of the Wind,’ I chose to use Irish/Gaelic titles for the old Sharshite nobility — titles that had been outlawed by their Muram rulers. Now the Sharshites are not Gaelic. Let’s get that out of the way right now. The actual titles would be different in their own tongue. But I did want to give a bit of a Celtic feel to them, thus the choice.

Is there some Celtic ancestry for the native folk of Sharsh? Possibly, but it would be far removed and much mixed with other cultures by the time of our tales. ‘Gauls’ almost certainly passed through the Ural Gate, the passage between worlds, at some point, as would Romanized people of that heritage a little later. Both would, however, be thousands of years removed from the time the novels are set.

Similarly, I employed more-or-less English titles for the Muram and post-Muram Sharshite aristocracy. Count, Baron, etc. were used in the Donzalo books but not in the aforementioned novels, which are set more than a millennium earlier. I do make mention of the actual Muram title for King, Celos. I also used Thegn here and there as an older title and one the Mura allowed for the ‘new’ Sharshite nobility that supported their rule. The title survived as Thane among the Cuddonians of ‘Donzalo’s Destiny.’ (The Cuddonians are, at least in part, descendants of Sharshite refugees who crossed the mountains.)

And there is Dux, from the Latin, which I used for Muram military governors. Not unexpectedly, this comes down as Duke in later Sharshite usage. The ruler of Muradon is an emperor, also of Roman origin; for that matter, I use the Roman equivalent of knight, equester, for mounted Muram lancers. There was certainly an intention to draw some parallels between the empires of the Romans and the Mura.

Not that they are at all the same! The Mura are more akin to Asiatic nomads than they are Italians. But using references from other cultures is a useful sort of shorthand in writing fantasies. It helps prevent the created cultures from seeming too odd, too alien — and then, everyone (well, almost everyone) in the ‘D-World’ is descended from folk from our own ‘E-World.’ Nonetheless, be assured that I have created new languages to some degree for these cultures (although bits of Basque, Etruscan, and other tongues pop up) and that the cultures themselves are pretty much created from the ground up, and are not directly based on historic models. Nor am I going to be stealing historic events, a la Game of Thrones, and presenting them as as new. I reckon I can make up better ones myself!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sorcery and Chat Rooms

I recognize that the ‘speaking from afar’ that the sorcerers of my fantasy novels use is rather similar to chatting online — even to the existence of private ‘chat rooms,’ in the form of little empty worlds where they can meet. One needs to know the ‘address’ to find and speak to another wizard, generally, though powerful individuals are able to sort through thousands of worlds quickly and find where they need to be. A magical search engine, if you will. They even, in a sense, bookmark each other.

I had not really thought about any of that until now, but it is most likely it shaped my creation of the whole system. Of course, there are quite large differences, too. For one thing, their communication over distances involves actually sending a part of their physical being to those other worlds — existing in more than one universe at a time. The inherent ability to do that is largely the basis of all wizardly power.

And would it be possible to send a ‘virus’ to some other sorcerer? Pretty much, yes. Letting another wizard in is analogous to opening an infected email. He’s in your system and you may not be able to get rid of him. Spy-ware of a sort is common, and those spied upon may not realize it. Best to block certain users!

I suppose all this is in part a result of my personal need for a more-or-less logical system of magic. I may certainly leave some things unexplained in my tales, but they adhere to the concepts I have laid down. More traditional sorts of magic will not work in my primary fantasy world; this is not to say they might not in some less logical universe. Those will exist too (in potential, anyway) in the infiniverse. It is probably safer not to visit them. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sidekick, a poem

Sidekick

Every hero needs a sidekick;
I'll let you be mine.
It's not a demanding position,
I'm sure you'll do just fine.
I'll ask for your advice,
but follow my own design,
and. of course, I'll get the girl;
you'll console yourself with wine.

You'll share in my derring-do,
yes, each and every deed;
and be seen as an hero too,
although of a lesser breed.
My horse will be tall and fiery,
a truly worthy steed;
you'll ride a little behind me ―
a donkey is all you'll need.

And when you take that bullet
that was aimed at my breast,
I shall surely grieve,
tell all you were the best.
But I must find another
to laugh at my every jest;
for a hero needs a sidekick
to share in his quest.

Stephen Brooke ©2018


a bit of light poetry, a good bit of which I wrote in my head while mowing the yard

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Jewels Chapter

For no particular reason, a chapter from the WIP, 'The Jewels of the Elements.' This is Chapter Five, fairly near the beginning of the book, and is reasonably close to finished form.


* * *

“I shall kill you both, of course,” Orro told them. “As a priest of Asak it is expected of me.” His eyes slowly moved from the one to the other, the man savoring his power over them. “Had I the time I would torture you as long as possible. The Lord of Death asks us to make the extra effort, when we can.”

He knelt and began to methodically search their bags. “I have sensed the Jewels’ presence these days, known one of you carried them, but could not tell exactly where they might be concealed.”

“You are a wizard?” asked the Mur. It came out as a raspy whisper.

“Some might name me so, but before all I am a priest, the servant of Asak. Ah!”

He must have found the Eyes, thought Saj. He would have thought of more things had not a cheerful voice called from somewhere behind Orro.

“Ho there, young man. I do not think those belong to you.”

Saj could see a smallish man, an old man, leaning on a staff. He was wrapped in a dark cloak or maybe it only looked dark because of the night.

The Ildin turned to face him. “Begone old man,” he snarled. “This is no concern of yours.” A scornful laugh. “Or do you wish to go to Asak as well?”

“Those jewels were a concern of mine long before you were born, priest,” answered the newcomer. “And, I suspect, they will be after you die.” He slipped the cloak from his wiry body and raised his staff. Hair and beard were white and curling and neatly trimmed short, Saj could see, and his features — the dark skin, the heavy brow. He had seen such features before.

“A Tesran?” murmured Marana.

Saj only nodded. Was this man after the Eyes as well?

Orro took a step forward. With a sharp drawing in of his breath he stepped back again. Someone — something — loomed behind the old man. Saj could only tell it was exceedingly tall and somewhat man-shaped.

Their visitor held up a hand for it to halt. “I’ll tend to this, Cory. Hmm, first those bonds.” A casual wave of his hand and Saj felt his arms and legs suddenly freed. “And now, introductions. I am named Im.”

“The great wizard? Impossible!” laughed Orro. “Dead centuries ago.”

Im — if that was who he truly was — laughed as well. “You are free to believe what you will, Lackey of Asak. But you should believe that I can best you in any contest of wizardry.”

Saj sat up and grabbed the poke containing the jewels, lying where Orro had dropped it. He did not like being in such close proximity to them but best he keep them safe.

“And I’m not bad with a blade either,” continued the wizard, eyeing Orro’s knife. He said a few words, held out his hand, and a long sword appeared in it. “Drat, didn’t want one that big,” Im grumbled.

The priest of Asak answered with a wave of his own hands. Saj could actually see the magical fetters he tried to fix on his opponent, glowing a sickly green. It must be the influence of the mystic stones he held. This was why he liked to keep his distance from them!

The wizard swept the bonds away as they were nothing. “Cobwebs,” he chuckled. He tipped his head and peered at Orro. “Oh, so you’re going to call on your god.”

Saj could see a glow growing around the priest, the same ghastly green hue as before. Im glanced toward the Mur and held out his hand. Saj knew what he wanted. But should he? Could he trust this Tesran wizard?

Yes. He was not sure why he chose his course but Saj tossed the Eyes to Im. At once, a glow sprang up around the wizard as well, a glow of four colors, the colors of the jewels, red and gold and green and blue.

The men advanced on each other, blades in hand, auras leaping above and around them. Saj could see the wizard’s companion move forward now. Not a man, that was for certain. Its skin shone, reflecting the magical lights, so he was not sure of its true color. He was sure it stood a head taller than any man he had ever seen.

Orro made a sudden cast of his dagger, cursing when it was deflected by Im’s aura. Im smiled and tossed his own sword aside. It disappeared a moment later, pulled back to whatever realm he had drawn it from. A dome of sorts was forming above and around the dueling pair, a dome of light and fire, the jewels’ colors contesting with the cold pale green that must come from Asak’s realm.

Now two great — creatures, shadowy, unreal, began to form above the two combatants. That of Orro was manlike but misshapen, horned and clawed and terrible. Saj suspected maybe it was the form of Asak himself. Or a form. Gods had forms, true forms, he knew. He had spent time around one.

The shifting colors above Im made it difficult to tell just what it was. The form was that of a man, though, that was certain, a man of white light, and a rainbow-hued sword in his hand. No, no, not a man. A woman. Wasn’t it? Saj had to turn his dazzled eyes away.

When he looked back again, yes, it was a young girl he beheld. Had she something to do with the Eyes or was she of Im’s making? A goddess? It mattered not right then.

Orro’s demon held a sword too, a black sword with eddies of poisonous green light creeping up and down its blade. Both avatars seemed to be growing more solid, while the men below them were locked into some sort of trance. Saj realized all at once that these were manifestations of an invisible struggle going on between the two sorcerers.

Could Marana see all he did? Saj had been born with the second sight. He was of wizard blood. Perhaps his natural talents were modest but that did not matter. He never intended to pursue the study of magic. A gift of foreseeing was quite enough.

Thrusts and parries, feeling out the opponent. Saj suspected Orro was doing most of the feeling out. The elderly wizard Im seemed rather sure of himself. Slabs of spark were thrown up when the swords met, crashing with the sound of thunderclaps. Then a great wide swing of the black sword. Rather than ducking away from the blade, the woman brought her own weapon up and against it with all her own force. Saj was blinded for a moment. Deafened, too.

When he saw again, the demon, the manifestation of Orro or Asak or both, was gone, and the priest himself lay inert on the sand. The aura around Im was slowly subsiding. “Here, you’d best keep these,” he called, tossing the little bag of jewels back to Saj. The Mur chose to hand them over to Marana at once. He would prefer not hold them more than necessary.

Im knelt beside his foe’s body, listening to his heart. Saj could see the wizard’s large companion better now but still had no idea what it was. It seemed to be reddish. “No, not dead,” announced Im. “Had I not chosen to strike the sword he probably would be.”

“You should slay him anyway,” came an incredibly deep rumble from the red creature. “Safer.”

“I think not. Better he return to his fellows in the high mountains and inform them who guards the jewels now.”

The thing’s chuckle sounded like distant thunder. “If there are any more decent wizards among them, they already know.”

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Monospaced

I like to use a monospaced typeface for my writing. There are a few reasons for this. One is that it is useful for composing songs and poetry, as it allows one to line up breaks between feet or bars, and thereby keep track of the meter. I also like to print out songs for performance with those breaks. It makes it easier to stay with the rhythm, sing the right word in the right place.

For prose, a monospaced font helps the eye see mistakes. Yes, it is slower reading with monospaced type but that’s a good thing in this instance. The drafts of my recent novels (and poems) have first been typed out in Century Schoolbook Mono, 12 or 13 point. I liked the font for this purpose though I am sure plenty of others would work. Were I a writer of code — another application where monospaced fonts are useful — it would most certainly not be the choice.

I have long saved and printed song sheets in Courier New. This was simply because everyone had that typeface and everything would show up properly if I shared files. But it is not at all nice for reading from, for practice or performance. I tried alternatives and finally settled on Courier Prime, an ‘improved’ version of the typeface. It was no trouble switching my default style to it in Open Office, where I do most of my writing. It is set as my default font for text files too, which I write and read in Notepad++ these days.

Does any of this make much difference? Of course not. It’s just nice to have things working at their best. I like efficiency. I’ll probably go right on writing my books in Century Schoolbook Mono. It has more of a traditional text serif look than pretty much any other monospaced typeface, and that’s a good thing — at least for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cardboard, a poem

Cardboard

A puzzle someone put together once,
we made a picture. Nice, he said, and threw
the pieces back into the cardboard box.

The version on its cover did not do
us justice, but it’s all that now remains.

Stephen Brooke ©2018