Category: Trident War Chronicles

May 02 2017

Character Spotlight: Akasame

To my knowledge, Akasame’s origins date back to Version 2, which should surprise few people familiar with the origins of the story as there’s not a whole lot that survived from Version 1 (thank you, adolescent fit of pique). Physically, I was imagining something along the lines of Toshiro Mifune (as in Throne of Blood), but while my mind goes to Sengoku Jidai samurai, the equivalent time period for the story would actually set the characters back in the Yamato Jidai, which I’m far less familiar with (and you don’t see nearly as often in pop culture depictions as the Sengoku and Edo Jidai). Originally, I imagined Akasame as a daimyo, but that wouldn’t have fit, so I used the less specific “warlord” title. I was inspired in part by Makoto Shishio of Rurouni Kenshin for the whole “the flesh of the weak is the food of the strong (弱肉強食)” philosophy taken to its literal extremes. He is without a doubt the most unambiguously evil of all the lead character in TTWC3. He has almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever except for an appreciation for subordinates who are both competent and loyal. As a result, there’s not that much depth to his character and his section of the story mostly serves to demonstrate how his hubris continually makes his situation worse.

Much as with Carpos, only as I was writing his end did he manage to pull a surprise turn. I hadn’t originally planned for him to turn into a youkai in his dying moments, but it seemed entirely appropriate. And, in case you were wondering, his head doesn’t die and it’s left sealed away in Castle Notos until it can be revived. (Whether I tell that story or not remains to be seen, but that strikes me as a good twist to pull if I ever tell the tale of what happens when Scipio’s seal on the Darklands fails.) I don’t know why I give some of my worst characters better ends than they deserve, but there you go. I suppose if they were too pitiful going out, you might feel some sympathy for them or, worse, think I’m sympathetic toward them.

And this does it for the 24 lead characters of The Trident War Chronicles. There are plenty of other characters throughout my canon who warrant spotlight features like this, but many of them still have a lot of their story left to tell. I suppose I could always talk about characters up to the point they’ve been featured and make additional posts later. We’ll see. I’d say doing a spotlight a month isn’t a bad idea. Let’s make it happen. Stay tuned.

Mar 01 2017

Character Spotlight: Mab

I don’t believe Mab was part of the original prototype for the story, but when I revised the concept, she was added in to be a counterbalance to Corona on Zephyr’s side. (This makes here a “rook” character in the series’ chess conceit.) My primary influences for the character and scenario were Gargoyles, the 1998 TV mini-series Merlin and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I would imagine Mab’s role as the primary antagonist in Merlin inspired me to use her over Titania. I’m more liable to associate Titania with the role of Oberon’s Queen, but I realized there was no reason not to have both, which served as an excellent source of conflict. While neither Oberon nor Mab were strictly monogamous prior, Oberon never elevated any of his flings to equal standing with Mab. That’s the main thing that sticks in her craw. It also doesn’t help that she had grown complacent in their marriage and stopped going out of her way specifically to please her husband, something Titania (at the point we’re introduced to her, at least) is very adept at. Now, Oberon is a terrible person, short-tempered, faithless and cruel, but there aren’t many Fae in the upper echelons of their society that embody many virtues we recognize. Think of decadent aristocracy at its most detached and you get a decent feel for Oberon’s court. While I’d like to think Mab elicits some sympathy, it should be noted that she’s not that admirable of a character. It’s just that she’s on the receiving end of the kind of cruelty she would regularly dish out herself and is never fully cured of her haughtiness and vindictiveness.

Now let’s dive right into the likely controversy that may be sparked around her section of the story. Let’s make no bones about it. Rowland raped her and there’s no excusing it. I wanted Rowland to sire Puck via Mab and I envisioned her trying to seduce him in a ploy to be free of her chains, and that ploy failing because, honestly, Rowland isn’t dumb enough to release an extremely dangerous High Faerie who has repeatedly expressed her intention to kill him just so he can have a supposedly transcendental sexual encounter. I found myself stuck, though, as I realized that this would destroy just about any sympathy Rowland might have as a character. (He’s got plenty of bad points, but it’s not like he’s without redeeming value.) This led me to come up with the idea of the madness that took hold of Mab, both a natural side-effect of her imprisonment and also a metaphysical thing due to the Fae’s reliance on the natural spirits to sustain them. (Things like cut stone and wood lose their vital essence, for instance, making human settlements basically dead zones for the Fae.) This drove her to desperation and I wanted to establish a certain closeness between her and Rowland that ends up being exploited. Yes, she did solicit him initially, but she didn’t consent under the circumstances that followed. I then wanted to have Rowland show indirect signs of guilt after the fact but I also thought Mab showing her utter contempt for him was important too. And, yes, in case you were wondering, all this was allowed to happen according to Oberon’s design. While Rowland deserves guilt for raping Mab, Oberon is vastly worse for orchestrating the circumstances for his wife to be enslaved and raped just to teach her a lesson. Yeah, he’s a real scumbag.

I did like contrasting Mab with Simona. Here you have two women in Rowland’s service, both far more long-lived and powerful to justify serving under him, one who despises him and the other who loves him to the point of fanaticism. In the end, though, it’s the one who hates him who bears him a son, even if he never knows the son in question. (Though as noted in the text, Rowland did regret never consummating his relationship with Simona after she was gone. It was purely for political concerns that he kept his hands off her and you might argue that his pent-up unresolved feelings for Simona got displaced onto Mab when she tried to seduce him.) For Rowland’s part, he cared for both of them in his own clumsy way. I’m sure you can sympathize with the poor mortal woman who found herself being stacked against those two.

I’m not entirely sure I did full justice to the character of Mab in the brief seven chapters I gave myself to work with, but it was an interesting effort all the same. Next time we’ll be looking at our final lead in TTWC3, the red warlord Akasame. Stay tuned.

Jan 14 2017

Character Spotlight: Urgill

Stock fantasy races like Orcs, Goblins and Trolls tend fit the Always Chaotic Evil mold, no doubt in part as an easy way to have them slaughtered en masse without triggering any moral compunction. Some more recent authors go to great pains to avert the stereotype. I don’t set out explicitly to upend what you think about when you hear the word “Goblin”, but my two Goblin leads in the Trident War Chronicles are among the more sympathetic, so you could be forgiven for thinking that was specifically my objective. No, I just develop characters in ways I find interesting.

Actually, Urgill was more of a stock Goblin character in earlier incarnations. Only as I tried to make her more interesting did she become a more rounded character (and in many ways more upstanding than a lot of my human leads). Her tragic infatuation with Rowland was an early development, but as she became a consecrated warrior maiden kept from fulfilling the traditional female role in her society, that infatuation took on grander proportions. You can imagine the fantasy that took shape in her mind, her returning to her homeland in triumph with her otherworldly prince to liberate her people from the Monarch Lich. Of course, even if Rowland had any intention of helping her, even if he loved her the way she wanted to be loved, that dream would’ve been doomed to failure. Her ultimate fate was almost a mercy.

Originally Urgill went to Notos entirely of her own volition, a terribly ill-thought out bit of teen rebellion. Now it’s part of a plot by her father that’s still ill-thought out, but has a little more credibility to it (if you ignore the overwhelming power of the Monarch Lich, which is something no one who hasn’t faced him directly has a good handle on). You feel more of a touch of destiny in Urgill’s mission, even if she was destined for failure.

It might’ve been fun to have more scenes of Urgill’s rivalry with Simona, but I think I had just the right amount. If I showed too much of Simona’s merciless contempt for Urgill, there wouldn’t be much audience sympathy left for her. I did like the juxtaposition, Urgill who was elevated in the eyes of her people contrasted with the debased Simona (not so much in Rowland’s service, but definitely in her old life as a comfort woman). Both of them had their unrequited love for Rowland, though as we learned, under different circumstances Rowland might have actually responded to Simona’s feelings. I still feel a bit sorry for Urgill getting hooked on someone way out of her league.

If she had the resources for it, it might have been interesting to see Urgill found a community south of the River. It definitely would’ve sown the seeds of future conflict, but Rowland’s ruthlessness put an end to that possibility well before it could present an actual threat.

And I guess that does it for Urgill. Next time we’ll deal with Mab, a character who developed in some interesting ways that I look forward to discussing. Stay tuned.

Nov 30 2016

Character Spotlight: Scipio

Scipio is definitely the token good teammate on the Alliance side. I mean, they’re mostly varying shades of grey (except the unambiguously evil Akasame), but they tend to be on the darker side of the spectrum. I liked the idea of giving the Alliance a “conscience”, though his advice isn’t always followed. How much of a difference he made, it’s hard to say, but it’s more than what he would’ve accomplished if he stayed in that tower.

It was a newer development to have him infiltrate the mage conscripts. In an older version, he avoided conscription by casting a spell on the mages in question. In retrospect, even if this worked as well as I originally wrote it, there were bound to be problems later. Also, for his part in the capture of Castle Notos, it would be a lot more effective from the inside. Since we already had the precedent of Rowland infiltrating the militia, it fit with the MO of an Alliance operative. A much better solution if you ask me (probably why it’s the version I went with).

Scipio is pretty much the only person in the Alliance with an eye on the greater scope of things. Rowland’s only really interested in Notos, Simona only cares about what Rowland wants, Carpos is using the Alliance as a stepping stone for his own ambitions, Garm thinks of nothing but getting his people home, and though we haven’t gotten to them yet, Urgill has her own mission, Mab is simply biding her time until she can be free, and Akasame like Carpos is using the Alliance for the sake of his own ambition (and for the opportunity to kill people). He’s the only one to gives credence to the threat of the Darklands (except for Urgill, of course, given that she’s from there–Simona doesn’t count because due to her three hundred-year absence, she wasn’t quite up to date on current events over there), though he is somewhat skeptical. Had Rowland launched further attacks after the Battle of Kalonis, it’s likely that Aristides would’ve pushed for stomping the Alliance. Oh, the Alliance might have survived and carried on guerrilla attacks until the Zephyrians withdrew, but they wouldn’t be in any shape to form a government as quickly as they did and waylaying the Zephyrians may well have resulted in the Dominion being that much better positioned to receive them. Considering all this and factoring in the seal on the Darklands, it wouldn’t be incorrect to characterize Scipio as having saved the world. Things definitely would’ve been much worse without his hand in world events. Not a bad bit of work for a former hermit.

There’s an order of mages that’s founded after his death calling itself the Scions of Scipio that serves Notos for nearly six hundred years. It goes a long way toward keeping his name alive. It actually outlives the republic Rowland founded, though not by too much. That’s a story for another day, however.

And that does it for Old Scipio. Next time we’ll be discussing poor Urgill, who has the uncanny Goblin knack for getting the short end of the stick. Stay tuned.

Oct 09 2016

WIP Update – 08 Oct 16

I already made the announcement on Twitter, but I put the finishing touches on Akasame’s epilogue of TTWC3, completing the novel. Yay. Just for fun, let’s rank the 24 leads of the TTWC series based on the word count of their sections. The results may surprise you (and may not).

1. Daphne (TTWC1)              – 20092
2. Carpos (TTWC3)               – 14176
3. Xanthe (TTWC1)               – 12688
4. Ionathas (TTWC1)            – 12074
5. Simona (TTWC3)              – 11331
6. Akasame (TTWC3)            – 11094
7. Solon (TTWC1)                  – 10051
8. Cronos (TTWC1)               – 10513
9. Urgill (TTWC3)                  – 10121
10. Mab (TTWC3)                  – 9756
11. Corona (TTWC1)             – 9466
12. Rowland (TTWC3)           – 9291
13. Scipio (TTWC3)               – 8603
14. Garm (TTWC3)                – 8028
15. Caligo (TTWC2)               – 7656
16. Xenomachos (TTWC1)    – 6936
17. Medusa (TTWC2)            – 6770
18. Orguz (TTWC2)               – 6556
19. Xorgoth (TTWC2)           – 6024
20. Arachne (TTWC2)          – 5512
21. Python (TTWC2)             – 5492
22. Gamaliel (TTWC1)          – 5200
23. Monarch Lich (TTWC2)  – 4987
24. Dox (TTWC2)                  – 4002

Hmm. I think my Elf-bias is showing. Given that Daphne’s section has the most bearing on the Umbriel Cycle at large, it’s little surprise she has the largest share, but some of these surprise me at where they stand relative to the others. I’m sure I have a round of rewrites in my future, especially to expand on TTWC2, but this is what things look like now as of Version 3 of the story.

I didn’t do much writing on TBP other than a couple lines in Chapter 1. All I did for the most part is review the prologue and what I’d written thus far on Chapter 1. I intend to do a little more writing on it and then switch over to CeleKing1. Stay tuned.

 

Oct 08 2016

WIP Update – 07 Oct 16

I made good progress on Akasame’s epilogue of TTWC3, not quite finishing it, but there’s only a little bit to go. Stay tuned.

Oct 07 2016

WIP Update – 06 Oct 16

Well, after a disappointing start to the week, I managed to turn things around mightily, making up for all that lost time and blazing through Akasame’s Chapters 4 and 5 and making some decent headway into his epilogue as well. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be done with his section and TTWC3 as a whole in one more sitting. Quite satisfactory. This means I can move forward with TBP this week. Looking forward to that. Stay tuned.

Oct 06 2016

WIP Update – 05 Oct 16

I’m not off to a great start, honestly. Two days of nothing and then I don’t even manage 100 words. The final three chapters of Akasame’s section aren’t going to get finished at this rate, but I’m hoping to turn things around. By the by, those 100 words were in his Chapter 4. I really don’t have that far to go, but I’ve got to actually push on if anything’s going to happen. I’d like to blame the mascot for insisting on my bedtime lately, but even discounting her, there’s several hours that I could be writing instead of playing games. Anyway, I’ll get it done. Stay tuned.

Oct 05 2016

Character Spotlight: Garm

The problem with writing Dwarves, at least for me, is that it seems very easy–far more so than with Elves–to fall into the stock character tropes and never really write the characters as individuals. I tried to avert this somewhat with Garm. In many ways, he is the stereotypical Dwarf warrior, but I made some effort to play with the formula a bit. Garm realizes that being nothing more than dumb muscle brimming with valor and bloodlust isn’t enough to win wars, at least not against an opponent that not only has numerical superiority but also uses its dang head to win battles.

One of the key elements of Garm’s character is his struggle with his upbringing with all its focus on pride and personal honor versus the necessarily underhanded approach he needs to take if he wants his people to actually succeed. I drew a lot of inspiration from Viking culture, where victory by craft is supposedly as valued as victory by might. How true this was in practice is up for grabs, but I used it as a starting point for Garm. The Dwarves lack the might to beat the humans outright, so he had to start using his noodle.

His arrangement with the Church of Holy Light is a relatively recent development. I started thinking about how the Army of Light could actually beat Xorgoth’s flight and I knew that just throwing meat into the grinder wasn’t going to do it. As I’d developed the repeating ballista to neutralize the advantage Corona provided at Kalonis, I had my answer. And by making this arrangement, I also gave a justification for why the notoriously anti-nonhuman Church would allow the Dwarves to return to their mountains. After all, even diminished from the Darklands campaign and dealing with an insurgency by loyalists to Daphne, the Army of Light would’ve had no problem mopping the floor with Garm’s forces.

I’m sure the attentive readers are left to wonder what the Dwarves’ reaction will be when they find that their cities have been plundered in their absence. That does take some of the joy out of their homecoming. There will be consequences, naturally.

It wasn’t until the latest version of the story that I developed any supporting characters for him. I particularly like contrasting the younger, more idealistic Burkur with Garm just to show how bitter and jaded he has become. He’s a man (or Dwerkh, I suppose) who’s lost everything and the only thing that keeps him going is the drive to get his people home and see them flourish once more. Anything that doesn’t directly contribute to this goal goes to the wayside, as seen with his callous treatment of the Dwerkhar who fell during the purge of Urgill’s forces.

Well, I guess that does it for him. We’ll be back in several weeks to tackle Scipio (not literally, mind, as he’s an old man and terribly fragile). Stay tuned.

Sep 19 2016

WIP Update – 18 Sep 16

Well, I missed my goal. I did make progress on Akasame’s Chapters 4 and 5, handily meeting the standard quota for the week, but I was kinda hoping to push through and finish the book so I could move on to The Brothers Pendragon. Rather than spend another week on it, I’m going to switch over to CeleKing1 and get back to it two cycles down. If all goes according to plan, as we cross the halfway point in TTWC3’s serialization, I’ll have the book done. We’ll see how it goes. Stay tuned.