Category: TTWC2

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.

 

Mar 22 2016

Character Spotlight: Medusa

Medusa is a character that hails back from my now lost original concept for what would become The Trident War Chronicles. I’ve been a big fan of Greek mythology ever since I was a child, so it’s little surprise that I’ve woven it in so tightly with my own mythos. Much as Arachne originally had little more going for her besides being a menacing monster, so too was Medusa until I spent some time to give her more character development. I’ve already talked about her relationship with Arachne in an earlier post and there’s not much to add there. I’d probably say Medusa is a little more emotionally dependent on Arachne than Arachne is on her, but that might be because her background is a fair bit more traumatic.

Something I wasn’t expecting in her character until I really got into writing her section was the aspect of her as a tired bureaucrat. She doesn’t serve the Monarch Lich out of any great fear or loyalty, but more because it’s just a job. Basically, when Arachne submitted to him, she had no reason to put up a fight and was given her job as an inspector of the realm. You might think there was a punitive aspect to the Monarch Lich sending her to Notos, but it was simply a matter of him putting her powers and experience to use. As someone who made the rounds all throughout the Darklands multiple times during the Lich’s reign, who better to survey the land of the enemy?

As an interesting side not, there are three degrees of petrification that get covered in more detail in TTWC3, where the characters are on the receiving end and it seemed appropriate to talk about their origin here. Total petrification is fairly familiar and what most people associate with Medusa. Petrification of the flesh, where only a victim’s body is turned to stone, is actually inspired by the Medusa Transducer in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In my universe at least, I make the rationale that living tissue and dead matter react differently to the spell. This also make a convenient way to loot the victims. The way the Ancients were turned into bronze statues in Everyday Magic follows the same principle. Surface petrification was inspired by the Metroidvania Castlevania games like Symphony of the Night where it looks like total petrification but is ultimately just a shell that you can break free of. This form of petrification has previously been seen in KoG3 when Brenok petrifies Adrienne.

That does it for now. I’ll be back again in a couple months to start our treatment of the leads of TTWC3 with Rowland. Stay tuned.

Feb 08 2016

Character Spotlight: Xargos

I’ve stated before that I have trouble clicking with most of the leads of TTWC2, which is a terrible thing for the author to say, but Xargos is one of my favorites. While Orguz is the most sympathetic and Caligo the most interesting (particularly with regard to his backstory), Xargos is one of the most fun as a total dirtbag villain. Vain, greedy, cruel and cowardly, there’s almost nothing redeemable to him and he’s so blatant that he’s pretty fun to write. Now, perhaps the most fun villain to write was Brenok from the KoG series because you take all the above vices and add diabolical cunning. Speaking of which, the fact that Xargos veers into being stupid evil is another part of his charm.

As despicable as he is, I actually feel a bit sorry for Xargos. He’s so arrogant and he’s so much dumber than he thinks he is that he just blindly charges down the path to his own destruction. Compare him with Ophis Python, who was just kinda pathetic. For Python, circumstances were largely out of his control, but Xargos is almost entirely the author of his own ruin. It’s a bit sad, but you have a hard shedding any tears genocidal psychopath.

Well, that’s it for now. We’ve just got one more to go and that’ll be it for TTWC2. Stay tuned.

Dec 24 2015

Character Spotlight: Ophis Python

My head’s been so full of Star Wars that I very nearly forgot to give Ophis Python his due now that he’s left the stage. If I’m not mistaken, he dated back to the lost prototype of the story. If you’ve seen the cover of Life Force (Salamander in Japan) for the NES, you can see the image that was the inspiration for what Python is supposed to look like. My love of classical mythology factors in heavily with Python’s backstory, which also provides a connection to Arachne.

I’ve commented before about the challenge of writing nonhuman characters, particularly ones that aren’t humanoid. The further you distance yourself from the character, the greatly the challenge to portray them. Python mourning the loss of his family and the decline of his tribe are relatable enough, but there isn’t that much else to his character. I’ll admit that he’s pretty weak as a lead and if I had to do it again, I might consider replacing him with the Herakles Queen Basilissa.

It doesn’t feel like I’m giving him much of a fair shake and if I as the author don’t have much investment in him, that doesn’t bode well for the reader’s reception. Well, so it goes. I’ll have more to say when Xorgoth’s turn comes up, so look forward to that. Stay tuned.

Nov 01 2015

Character Spotlight: Dox the Dark Eternal

It isn’t apparent now, but Dox is a rather special character in that he appears in many stories in the Tellus Arc. In fact, he happens to guide a lot of the events on the Planet from the date of his genesis on. He wasn’t originally in the Trident War Chronicles but was added in when the story was revived and I was working to better integrate the nascent Tellus Arc.

Much of Dox’s story gets filled in elsewhere, but I’ll go ahead and give you the basic background here. Dox was once a human archmage obsessed with the then-extinct Dark Race. Through his agents, he was able to uncover the Tome of the Black Lich, a spellbook sealed with the power of titular Black Lich, the last of the Dark Race. Through the power of the Tome, Dox became the Dark Eternal, a sort of noncorporeal entity of overwhelming dark power. This bypasses the key weakness of the Liches themselves, that their physical bodies become unable to contain the vast power they develop. Ironically, Dox continues his quest to perfect the Dark Race without realizing that he’s already achieved the nearest approximation to perfection that’s possible.

Dox powers himself by absorbing the souls of living things. In my canon at least, just as with the laws of conservation of mass and energy, a soul can neither be created nor destroyed, so each time Dox consumes a soul, he adds a perpetual energy generator, though the law of diminishing returns applies, hence his need to continually claim new souls for the multitude within.

In Dox’s epilogue, there are oblique mentions of a “her” interfering. I’m not going to go into the details here. You’ll learn more about her eventually, but I will say that in all the multitude, there is one soul that continues to defy him, not quite to the degree of parity but strong enough that any slackening of control can be exploited. That’s why his projection in the Darklands was destroyed. Otherwise Xanthe wouldn’t have stood a chance. Rest assured that this mystery benefactress will appear again.

It was interesting juxtaposing the dual nature of the Monarch Lich, who still retained much of his humanity, with the more inscrutable Dark Eternal. As I said before, the irony is that Dox already represents the perfection of the Dark Race but is completely unable to see beyond his goal of achieving that through new generations of Liches. The Liches themselves are an untenable species. That’s why they went extinct with Black Lich thousands of years earlier and that’s why they’ll go extinct again. All Dox has is his mission, but his view is so blinkered (contrary to his conceit that his vision extends far and wide) that he’ll never truly achieve it. That’s all the better for the world.

As a fun tidbit, it was actually Dox who was behind Shadowblight’s betrayal of the Shadow Clan and all his efforts to unify the Southern Continent. I think you only get an oblique reference or two from Brenok of “my master’s master”, but that’s who it is. Expect to see a lot of more of this guy. He plays a direct role in seven more books slated thus far and has some influence in several others. Next time we’ll be visiting that most tragic of serpents, Ophis Python. Stay tuned.

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.

Sep 13 2015

Character Spotlight: King Orguz III

I would have to say that Orguz is probably one of the characters who benefitted most from the Version 3 expansion of TTWC3. At very least, I had planned for him to be a sympathetic character ever since Version 2, but his story was given a lot more breadth and depth recently. Originally he was Urgill’s father, who was aggrieved by her defection to the Promethean Alliance and reluctant to see his people used as the Monarch Lich’s cannon fodder, but that was about it. For Version 3, I instead made him Urgill’s grandfather and drew up his family tree. I made him into a reluctant king compelled to wear the crown as a puppet ruler who had seen the folly of defying the Monarch Lich when his people were conquered. Everything he does as king is meant to limit the suffering as his people, a vain effort though it may be.

Goblins are often portrayed as always chaotic evil, but there are some people who try to avert that. Basically, my take is that they’re a largely primitive, violent race but many are more neutral and there are stand-outs like Orguz who are actually among the more moral and decent characters I’ve crafted. He’s definitely an oddity among his kind, something he himself rarely fails to make note of. You can also see his more broad-minded ways in his treatment of the scout Orgdith, valuing ability over appearance.

Despite his advanced age and a nature that was out of step with his people’s culture, Orguz was actually one of the longest reigning kings of Shade’s Forest, partially due to the Monarch Lich’s patronage. There wouldn’t have been another who could’ve led his people so long under the circumstances, but I don’t imagine most people respect a successful collaborateur.

I guess this’ll do it for him. I may do a supplemental post on Goblin society someday. We’ll be back here again in seven weeks once the next section is complete. Stay tuned.

Jul 27 2015

Character Spotlight: Sir Caligo

The origins of Sir Caligo are somewhat unusual. During my first playthrough of Ogre Battle 64, I didn’t know a thing about the Chaos Frame or how to act to set your alignment. (The fact that your Chaos Frame data is hidden from you until after the end of the game doesn’t help.) As a result, I simply stormed my way through the missions and was completely blindsided when everyone started turning on me in the end. The heroes from the original game fought me and the leader of the resistance who owed his position to my efforts denounced me. It was a complete and utter betrayal. Add that to the typical civilian grumbling you get in Japanese fiction and I became wrathful, wanting an add-on campaign where I would march my army from one corner of the land to the next and raze the villages of all those bloody ingrates. (I later learned that you have to march on villages with units of matching alignment to “liberate” rather than “conquer” territory and so my second run was a much happier one.) Anyway, I decided to use this scenario in one of my stories and so Sir Caligo was born.

Narkissos of Karas was a young soldier who served with distinction in the Herakles War, where a colony of the Herakles threatened to overrun Euros. Later, when King Euromakhos’ twin sons Castor and Pollux refused to rule jointly as per their father’s dying wishes, the Gemini War broke out. Narkissos served in the cause of King Pollux, who was favored by the aristocracy, and with his elite Companions at the core of his army, he handily crushed the plebian forces supporting King Castor. When his victory was complete, Narkissos found himself bitterly hated by the people and in a bid to appease them, King Pollux stripped Narkissos of his honors and exiled him while his Companions were thrown into prison.

Stewing in his anger in exile in the Eurean colony of Thessalonica (whose short-lived bid for independence was ended by none other than Narkissos himself, so there were no friends to be found in the city), he saw an opportunity when the Thessalonians suffered the predations of an ancient vampire they called the Miastor Prince. As you know from Caligo’s prologue, Narkissos challenged the Miastor Prince, was defeated and turned into a vampire himself. However, he succeeded in killing the Miastor Prince shortly after being turned and by drinking the ancient vampire’s heart’s blood, he received a power boost much greater than any newborn vampire, even one sired by an ancient, should have. With this new power, he was able to return to Euros, free his Companions and exact his revenge on the people who betrayed him.

While revenge sounds sweet, one of the themes I tend to reinforce in my story is that however cathartic revenge might be at first, it’s ultimately empty or at very least it takes more than it gives. When Narkissos’ campaign of revenge was over, the rich nation of Euros was in ruins, its people all dead or fled, and there were no plans to build anything in the wake of this destruction. His Companions stuck faithfully by his side, desiring a share in his immortality to take on the world, but Narkissos didn’t share that ambition and quickly came to realize the true nature of his curse. He refused to grant his loyal followers their wish and so they grew old and died, then the ruined Kingdom of Euros was visited by the Black Dragon Xargos and cursed to become the Darklands.

Lacking ambition, Narkissos’ talents could only be used in service of a superior and so he became Sir Caligo the Knight of Chaos. He served Xargos and then the Dark Elf king Zanil who followed him. Were it not for a vampire’s inability to cross open water (without some trickery as demonstrated by Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel), the invasion of Notos would’ve likely gone quite differently, but being left in the Darklands, Caligo could do little as Zanil’s hubristic overreach led to his downfall and the collapse of the Chaos Dominion.

Caligo may well have spent the rest of eternity in hibernation were it not for the Dark Eternal raising him to serve the Monarch Lich. While there was some joy to be had in fighting once more, it was a fairly hollow thing conquering the various monsters and fell races of the Darklands. The prospect of fighting the Zephyrians stirred a little of the old passion, though, and while he found Duke Cronos to be a disappointing opponent, he was intrigued by Ionathas and started playing the game that ultimately ended in his self-engineered demise.

I definitely wanted to play up the parallels between Caligo and Ionathas. It wouldn’t have taken much of a push for Ionathas to go down the same path and there may well be an If Arc story in the future that explores that possibility. Anyway, even with Caligo seeking his own death, there’s no way an ordinary human could stand a chance against an ancient vampire of Caligo’s power, so I contrived the revival of Caligo’s Companions, their destruction at his hands and the Monarch Lich’s punishment for his disobedience. Being brought down to the level of a newborn vampire, Ionathas wasn’t quite so ridiculously outmatched but still didn’t stand much chance if Caligo wasn’t intent on dying by Ionathas’ hand. The one condition was that Ionathas could not surrender no matter how hopeless the fight seemed. Ionathas passed the test and so Caligo handed over Soul Drinker bring about his destruction.

As evidenced by the fact that his section is the longest, Caligo is my favorite character in TTWC2. I may well explore his past in greater depth in as of yet undeveloped stories. Next time we’ll be looking into the tragic figure of King Orguz. Stay tuned.

Jul 15 2015

WIP Update – 14 Jul 15

I was making progress on Rowland’s Chapter 3 when I found a character in the character glossary that hadn’t actually been used yet. (Usually I add entries for incidental characters as they appear.) In finding a place for this stray character, I wound up working on Scipio’s Chapter 5 and pretty well finishing it. After feeling so stifled with TTWC2, I’m actually enjoying working on the story again. Perhaps I need to reformulate it and perhaps I just need to accept that TTWC2 is the weaker entry in the series. I may yet craft a variant trilogy that ditches the structural conceit I’m using now and tells a more linear narrative. That’ll be a project to consider after I’ve finished TTWC3. In the meantime, I’ve got a ways to go. Stay tuned.

Jul 12 2015

WIP Update – 11 Jul 15

I’ve pretty well finished with Medusa’s Chapter 5, which effectively means that I’m done with TTWC2. Yay. That makes ten novels down. Not a bad bit of work. Perhaps if I can consistently meet quota, I can get my completion rate to something closer to a novel per year. That’d be nice. Anyway, now I can pick up work on TTWC3, but I also need to make some more progress on JJ and EM before their serialization starts in September. Fun, fun, fun. Stay tuned.