Category: KoG3

Oct 10 2015

Vampires in the Tellus Arc

Given the theme of this week’s movie reviews, I thought it might be nice to go into detail on the rules for vampirism in my stories. At present, vampirism only exists in my Tellus Arc stories. I suppose in a roundabout way it crops up in a few Earth Arc stories and could potentially present itself in the Cross and If Arcs as well, but for now, it’s restricted to the Tellus Arc, hence the title of the post.

I’ve already depicted the process of turning into a vampire twice: with Flavia Sapphira in The Three Warriors and with Narkissos (better known as Sir Caligo) in TTWC2, so let’s start there. First off, to become a vampire, you must drink the blood of a vampire. Typically, you are first drained of blood to just shy of the point of death as the admixture of essences eases the transition. The process of being reborn into unlife is very traumatic and it takes great force of will to maintain your mind. Should you fail, you’ll becomes a ghoul, a mere ravening beast. Ghouls have all the powers of a vampire, but they don’t tend to live very long because they have nothing more than animal instinct to guide them. Hunting them is comparatively easy.

The powers of a newly born vampire are relative to its sire. In other words, should you be turned by an ancient vampire, you would start out much stronger than if you were sired by a younger vampire. There is also the matter of your innate abilities. A turned archmage will have even stronger magical powers, though someone like a white mage would have their alignment flipped, but more on that later. The basic abilities include increased strength and speed and heightened senses. Other abilities such as flight and shapeshifting manifest later. Lestat’s comment from Interview with a Vampire holds true. “The Dark Gift is different for each of us.” Different abilities will manifest for different individuals. For instance, if you are a latent telepath, that ability would manifest itself after you were turned. Even the slightest latent potential will be drawn out in the due course of time. As your vampiric powers grow, all your abilities, both natural and supernatural, are amplified and enhanced.

As for weaknesses, light is the great vampire killer. Sunlight is the most obvious, but light magic is also effective. Even for a newborn vampire, exposure is not immediately fatal, but the resistance depends of the power of the individual vampire. Vampires are also vulnerable to water, the purer the better (hence the effectiveness of holy water). The same applies to silver. For wood, it must be fresh, no more than a day or two since it was cut, ergo a makeshift stake broken off from a piece of antique furniture wouldn’t do you much good. Garlic and certain pungent herbs can have a warding effect on weaker vampires but will not stop a determined one. As for the effectiveness of holy objects such as crucifixes, it is the person’s faith rather than the object itself that has the warding power. (As a result, a committed atheist can’t expect to hold up a cross to save himself.) The vampire’s heart is the source of his powers. Using a wooden steak blocks the flow of energies that sustain the vampire, but this isn’t enough to kill it. If you remove the stake, the vampire will reanimate. Cutting out the heart is more effective, but if the heart is reunited with the body (or even the ashes of the body), the vampire can be restored. To completely and permanently destroy a vampire, you must stake the heart, sever the head, then burn it all in the light of the sun. However, less thorough measures are normally sufficient as the average vampire isn’t going to have anyone working to restore him.

The vampire’s thirst for blood is the basic means by which he gains and sustains power. The longer a vampire goes without drinking, the weaker he becomes and the more susceptible to a vampire’s vulnerabilities. It is also important that the blood be fresh or else the life energies will dissipate, which happens quickly as the blood is separated from the body or the body approaches death. (As a result, the modern vampire drinking from blood packets wouldn’t be viable under this system.) The more potent the blood, the more power is derived from it. The blood of the young has more vigor than that of the old, the blood of a mage more than that of a commoner, and so on and so forth. All else being equal, a vampire who feeds on humans is going to be stronger than one who feeds on rats. It is possible to slow the atrophy by entering into a state of hibernation and there is also something of a rubber band effect where an atrophied vampire can regain power faster than it was first acquired. Beside basic life energies, abilities and experiences can be transmitted via the blood. We saw this in KoG3 with Adrienne picking up Byrnan by drinking Mark’s blood and in TTWC2 where Caligo was able completely read Sir Telemachos’ mind via his blood. As a result, the drinking of blood is more than just a matter of acquiring energy and makes active vampires all the more dangerous.

Dhampirs, or half-vampires, are an interesting case. They are as varied as full-blooded vampires in terms of their abilities and vulnerabilities. It’s an oversimplification to describe them as having half the power and half the weakness, but it provides a conceptual starting point. The more blood a dhampir drinks, the more their vampiric side comes to the fore, but only by drinking vampire blood can they be fully turned. Only some ancient vampires have the ability to breed, so typically the only way a dhampir can be born is if the human mother is turned while pregnant, as was the case with Flavia Sapphira. Unsurprisingly, dhampirs are exceedingly rare. The Cadmus twins shouldn’t be seen as typical examples of dhampirs because of Shadowblight’s extensive experimentation on them. Vincentian had a natural affinity for regeneration, so this was amplified to the point where he could regenerate more quickly and completely than even many full vampires. Adrienne pushed the physical limitations of a dhampir’s body without a significant increase in vulnerability, but she lacked any higher level abilities like shapeshifting and suffered a thirst for blood nearly on par with a a full vampire. Before Shadowblight’s experimentation, they both had a higher thirst for blood as a product of habit because their mother raised them as full vampires.

Lastly, we’ll discuss psychic vampires. These aren’t necessarily vampires in the traditional sense, though it’s possible for a conventional vampire with psychic abilities to become a psychic vampire. Basically, a psychic vampire feeds on the astral energies of others as opposed to blood. This could kill the mind just as extensive exsanguination can kill the body. For dual vampires, there are two options for gaining power. A dual vampire could hibernate with his physical body while continuing to feed psychically and awaken even stronger.

When I had a friend read T3W, he noted the peculiarity of Flavia Sapphira being able to see herself in the mirror after she was turned, as opposed to the common trope of vampires casting no reflection. At first I considered going back to change it but decided instead to leave it in. My post facto reasoning is that only vampires of a certain power level cease to have reflections.

Well, hopefully this has served to be an illuminating post (apologies to the vampires for whom illumination isn’t a desired state of affairs). Perhaps I’ll make another similar post on werewolves later in the month. Stay tuned.

Jun 29 2014

The Hero’s Journey and Knight of Gladius

I haven’t been doing much writing lately (or at least, not much writing that’s relevant here), but the poor blog is looking mighty lonely, so I’m whipping up this special post.

Although I don’t list George Lucas among my Three Pillars (more on the Three Pillars in a future post), the influence of Star Wars on me is undeniable. (Honestly, it’s almost impossible to imagine someone of my generation who isn’t strongly influenced by Star Wars.) Now, one of the things that made the Original Trilogy in particular so effective was how well it tapped into the monomyth. Those of you with even a passing familiarity with the creation of Star Wars is aware of the strong influence of Joseph Campbell on Lucas and how closely the original story follows the archetypical Hero’s Journey as detailed in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Now, you may find this hard to believe, but I actually haven’t read Campbell myself and I certainly wasn’t making a deliberate effort to follow the formula of the monomyth when I set out to write the Knight of Gladius series, but the way the story hits the notes is uncanny. Bear in mind that there’s nothing wrong with the monomyth formula. It’s a common thread of myth and legend transcending time and culture for a reason. If you believe in things like genetic memory and collective unconsciousness, I’d say the monomyth taps into them. Unless you’re a particularly gifted storyteller, sticking to the mold is actually strongly advisable. It doesn’t mean your story has to be stale and boring but rather that it meets certain expectations that connect with the audience. There’s still plenty of room to make the story your own and still provide a unique experience. You shouldn’t seek to be different just for the sake of being different. Tell a good story. Everything else worthwhile will follow.

Now, let’s get to the comparison of Knight of Gladius to the monomyth. By the by, this post is going to assume you’ve read the books, so if you haven’t, you may want to pick this up at a future date because there will be spoilers. We start with the ordinary world. KoG doesn’t actually show the ordinary world prior to the start of the adventure. Mark has already set out when we began. However, he spent eight years as a monk prior to the events of the books and this all tied into his primary denial of the call to adventure. You could argue that Mark has two separate hero’s journeys in the course of the series. The first occurs in his fight against Kyrios in Byrn ten years prior (as detailed in the Quest for the Pendants portion of KoG2) and the second is his return to Gladius and ultimate confrontation with Randwulf in KoG1 and 3. Note that I said Mark’s primary denial of the call because there’s a second layer to it as well. Most heroes in the monomyth are reluctant. For one reason or another, no matter how much they seem primed for adventure, when the time comes, they shrink from it. In KoG2, Mark doesn’t hesitate to seek out King Abdiy to have him account for the Dragon Guard’s attack on Tiberius. However, his experience that follows causes him to withdraw from fulfilling his potential as a hero, hence him retreating to the abbey. However, these stories can’t happen unless something pushes the hero onto the path. In Mark’s case, it’s years of yearning for his lost family and homeland rather than something as dramatic as stormtroopers razing the family farm. In Star Wars, Luke is cut off from his ordinary world, giving him nowhere to go but forward on his journey. In Mark’s case, his own actions sever his ties to the ordinary world as he’d already taken his permanent vows and breaking his vow of stability cuts him off from his order. Might he have returned to the abbey if he knew it was waiting for him? Probably not, honestly, but it probably would’ve increased his reluctance. (Part of me almost wishes Mark began his venture to Gladius still as a full-fledged monk and then is forced to take up the sword as circumstances demand. Perhaps there’s an If Arc story in there.)

Usually there’s a mentor figure who shows up to guide the hero in the early stage of the adventure. At first, Shadowstryke appears to be this, but he simply accompanies Mark on the way to Stormtree, where he was already headed (though, admittedly, he had gotten himself a bit lost in the Ancient Forest). Shadowstryke actually does a lot of work putting the pieces in place behind the scenes, but you see little of it in the story proper. He appears in Chapter 1 of KoG1 and doesn’t return until late in KoG3. Felix is closer to the archetype, showing up as Mark enters the second phase of his journey. Again, the monomyth doesn’t require you to slavishly hit every single point in exactly the same way. There are just common threads that come together over the course of the narrative.

You can argue that Mark crosses the first threshold when he leaves Byrn. Alternatively, you could call his entry into Stormtree the first threshold. Either one would make sense. From here we begin to acquire and test allies and enemies. In KoG1, the party is steadily assembled as Mark travels through the kingdom and he picks up a minor antagonist in the form of Harald Svenson, as Randwulf himself is off in Byrn trying to seek out the Eagle in the East two steps behind the game. The time in hiding after Mark’s rescue from Corinth is an especially nice bit where the party’s relationship is cemented.

I mentioned before that Mark’s denial of the call to adventure is two-layered. This is because you can argue that his overarching journey through KoG1 and 3 are actually two separate ones. His first denial involved him remaining in Byrn and the second was his refusal to fight in the rebellion against Randwulf. The arc of KoG1 brings him to the point of being ready to fight against Randwulf, which is then brought to completion in KoG3. In this sense, Felix better fits the mentor archetype for this second journey. (We also have the introduction of new allies in KoG3, with Catherine, Stefan and Ignatiy tying in KoG2 and Adrienne and Giles providing the connection to Randwulf’s side.)

I had to bring in this “two journey” concept before we move to the innermost cave. In KoG1, its a literal cave in Mount Vulcan where Mark’s party is captured by the Inkari Tribe and he then fights Mar Kurin to reclaim the gear of the Guardians. The supreme ordeal that follows results in the “death” of the pacifistic monk and Mark’s rebirth as a warrior. He then grasps the sword, both literally by taking up his father’s sword and figuratively by claiming his heritage as the Guardian. The road back takes him to Darkwall and the Battle of the Crimson Field, but this is an indecisive conclusion, which forces him to start over on a second journey. Pegging the innermost cave in KoG3 is a little trickier. Part of me wants to say it’s the Warrior’s Triad, but I’m more inclined to say it’s Darkwall. The supreme ordeal here is Mark’s confrontation with Randwulf, resulting in his “death” when Showblight destroys the keep and his rebirth having overcome his original quest to uncover the truth about the fate of his family. Rather than a sword (literal or figurative), we’ll say he’s claimed an “elixir” in this second journey, which allows him to assume his role as a leader in the new kingdom formed after Randwulf’s defeat.

It’s perhaps fitting that my first story would be the most archetypical. I suppose I could do the same with my other stories, but I imagine it wouldn’t fit quite as neatly. For instance, in the Tico series, Matt is effectively the protagonist, but it really isn’t his story alone. Perhaps each of the main characters have their own hero’s journey but Heaven help me if I’d try to pin all that down. Anyway, I hope you found all this interesting. Now let’s see if I can get back to doing some story writing.