Plots? Your choice of genre can sometimes define the complexity. I would never try a mystery or thriller they seem to require an attention to detail and structure which are beyond my capabilities. Fantasy seems to beg a complexity of its own, mirroring the apparent political interactions of our own previous historical eras. Maybe it was my own innate impatience coupled with an intolerance of the machinations seen in some series that had me veering off in other directions. Historically there were no perfect plans, everyone came unstuck at some stage and not by some dogged hero acting alone. In fact historically Humanity has been prone to chaotic dealings, lurching from crisis through aggression, complacency or error. That seemed a better backdrop for me, along with a few bits of grit in the machinery (in my case the Three central characters, who in turn would be shoved off course by events not directly involving them).
Thus the plots as such were fairly basic, really. Three young women pitchforked into a set of circumstances, the ramifications of which led to another, which in turn caused a big ruckus across local realms of Time and Space. They bonded in differing ways and prevailed. They had their varying times on stage, and matters were left with them looking to their respective futures undiminished and confident. ‘And that took three volumes of 650,000 words????‘ you might well ask. Actually yes, because the challenges, adventures and developing they experienced were taking places against various backdrops.
There never was, nor intended to be an epic linear storyline. Arketre, Karlyn and Trelli were never going to save The Empire, defeat the entire cast of villains, make the whole world a better place or one of them rule an entire nation. They were always frontline sloggers, albeit rising through the ranks, they didn’t even achieve imperial-wide fame or rushed from one crisis to another because only they could do the job. Their tales were all about adapting, surviving and growing closer in varying ways. And of course ending these episodes well.
This was about the various bondings of the three main characters, how their paths crossed with their first challenge and the ramifications thereupon, leaving the ground open to Volume 2. As with most Fantasy works things are not just left with one book, therefore there were plenty of loose ends to carry into Volume 2. The villains were fairly weak but that was a deliberate satire on the hordes grinning, monologuing perfect-plot-until-the-last-chapter characters that stalk books, comics, tv shows and films and quite frankly are boringly predictable. The main threats coming more from accidents, forces of Nature, incompetence of various folk and the command structure of Arketre’s own LifeGuard. The survival and triumph of the trio of women was thus one over Circumstances, The Unforeseen and their own fears, rages or misjudgements. The romance just grew out of the narrative and was actually the last piece to fit into the book. And the ending was more of a pause for the three to catch their breath and evaluate just how far their had come. Why not? What’s wrong with having three folk journey through a mire of confusion and come out the other end intact, and growing. You might even call it a ‘Road Trip’ book.
Volume 2 ‘Skirmishers’
This started where ‘Patchwork’ left off. Arketre and Karlyn in one place, Trelli in another and other folk propelling them into situations. This time there were not so much ‘villains’ but more emphasis on groups with their own agendas, and the complex, sometimes unintended interactions of these. This created a turbulent environment which the three women were obliged to navigate, embrace, survive in and sometimes influence. Each had their own new set of challenges. Karlyn, her heritage, Arketre the conflicting emotions of war and Trelli keeping the potential of her Ethereal abilities under her control and not vice-versa. Another theme I brought in was an age old-one in Military History, a seemingly superior force coming unstuck because the defenders were adaptable and motivated, while the invaders were faced with a difficult environment and the front-line troops were uncertain of why they were there. The demonic Zerstorung were a constant but as a malevolent opportunistic force. However the theme was ‘No one is ever has complete control of a situation. There are no perfect schemes. There are no constantly overwhelming forces. All is variable‘ . In the final pages up pops a twist, a piece of satire on the double standards men employ when dealing with women and how Arketre in particular takes a moral advantage of this.
This coalesced out of three ideas. Firstly the fearful battles around Stalingrad in 1942/43 the allegory would be Arketre’s . Secondly Karlyn’s heritage and reason for her being ‘here’. Thirdly Trelli’s involvement in the politics of the Silc family of Elinid, which stemmed from her concern over Wigran, arguably the one who gave cause to the whole companionship. My interest in the military and political aspects of various wars played heavily here, since the narrative moved around several locations and involved a number of groupings. Overall the picture was meant to look chaotic and at times the decisions quite incomprehensible; a reading of any history of any conflict will show this to be true reality. Since most of the narrative was seen from each woman’s standpoint it was difficult not to make them out as omnipotent saviours or as ‘wise’, while balancing out their strengths and virtues; thus they were never truly in charge of any big picture, constantly reacting and often getting the better of folk but equally being shunted around until eventually they are able to find their own stable, respected places.
The journey was long, thanks to the characters bother major and supporting it was completed on high notes and the deserving folk intact. Of course there was no grand finale in which everything was wrapped up; there were loose ends, for there may be other tales.
Outline: Trelli was an orphan placed as a housemaid in the respectable household of the Hendrechan family, notable in local commerce and society. She swiftly learnt she was fortunate, and by hard work rose to be valued. Her one problem being the younger son Wigran who due to his own forays in The Stommigheid inadvertently involves her upsetting her once stable life by giving her powers she now has to master.
Preamble: This extract involves the finale in a series of confrontations between Trelli and Wigran. She, having discovered his illegal efforts with The Stommigheid has warned him to stop before the authorities or worse come down upon the household. Because of their previously good relationship he has been trying to convince her otherwise.
Trelli was starting to yearn for easier times when her Ghitanixday afternoons were little interludes when she could just be herself and sometimes lazy. She now accepted this had been chipped away since Wigran had got her all tangled up with firstly his financial doings and now here she was in his room, sitting at this desk, looking at his nasty mirror, and him carrying on like it was all quite right and proper. And why had she been such a ninny and let him talk her into this? This wasn’t excitement jiggling her innards. No. This was being scared silly.
‘What am I supposed to do?’ she demanded.
‘Nothing Trelli,’ was his anxious reply ‘I just want you to see how wondrous The Ethereal can be,’ and his hands moved across the jewels bringing a light similar to a pale misty dawn.
‘Looks ghostly to me,’ she complained.
‘No, let me explain. You see, there came upon the world long years ago a new force which enabled folk to do things which had only been dreamed off,’
‘And The World might have got destroyed,’
‘Yes, there were mistakes, but it was due to inexperience. Look. You do want to know, don’t you?’
‘I don’t think I do,’
‘Oh, don’t be so soppy. Look at these jewels. These are selected for their empathy with the Ethereal. They draw its elements from the very air and channel them through these delicate wires into the….’
‘Funny looking box with a scary mirror. Something will loom out of it,’ she shuffled nervously, then flinched when Wigran tried to pat her knee, he had meant to reassure her, not one of his better qualities.
‘No,’ he tried his idea of a calm authoritative voice, it came out peevish. ‘Look, watch this,’ and despite her whimper of apprehension began to tap out a pattern upon the jewels ‘You see, each impact or combinations of impacts has a certain resonance which sends out a message to the central hub within the box, which in turn generates an empathy with the Ethereal. I’ll show you,’ he turned to look, hopefully at her, finding her wide-eyed attention upon the screen.
‘Why is there a small red and blue sea in the middle?’
Wigran peered at the shape she was pointing at.
‘Nothing to worry about,’ he assured her or hoped he had ‘This is one of the many sights you see,’
‘What does it mean then? Is it a sea in some odd land?’
‘It’s a,’ he paused then as loathed as he was had to admit ‘Well, I’m not too sure at the present,’ he leaned in fingers hovering over the jewels.
‘If you don’t know,’ Trelli chided swatting his hands away ‘Don’t fool with it. Wait for it to go away,’
‘I can’t do that,’ he snapped horrified at the idea ‘This is as an important exploration as one by any sea captain,’ while still hovering at the jewels, not sure of his choice but neither willing to let Trelli think he was indecisive.
‘More than a few of those never came back,’ she warned as she began to chew upon her knuckles and recite prayers begging The Good Lord God to forgive these his foolish and wayward children.
‘Do stop that,’ Wigran complained now embracing peevishness, lest she somehow convince him ‘It is not helpful,’
‘Not asking The Good Lord God for aid and guidance ?’
‘Oh Trelli. Oh Trelli. Oh Trelli,’ he lamented. She was confusing him.
‘Yes, I’m here. All three of me,’ fear being replaced by sarcasm.
‘This is how things are when the Ethereal or Stommigheid is being explored, there are sights and sounds to be encountered. This red and blue manifestation could well be the indication of an as yet unchartered pathway, enabling the question of distance to be considered no longer valid to the communications regarding or transference of goods. Look,’ goaded by her intransigence he pressed red and azure jewels’ See how it fluctuates in response to gems of similar hues, indicating a facet of empathy,’
Once more Trelli did not have any notion as to what he was talking about, and said so while watching that red and blue smudge. It did look like a sea, albeit a small one.
Wigran stung by her failure to at least listen with an open mind began to dither about with the lowest of the three drawers on the right side of his desk, doing his stupid tapping, this time on three dull looking brass screws, at which point the draw flew open, and he swiftly pulled out a volume old and battered through use, waving the thing in her face.
She managed to make out an odd title of ‘A Perplexing Tendency to Persist’
‘This is how I started Trelli. Four years ago, when father made a speculative purchase of some woebegone lord’s library and I found this amongst volumes on the husbandry of vegetables. This seemingly amusing and quirky tale is actually made of two layers. Firstly, part of an account of folk legendary within the realms of the Jordisk told in a comic style, but more important a coded guide on how you could build an oculator,’
Trelli wrinkled her threatened nose, she was sure there was an oily smell coming out of the pages and wished he would put the blasted thing back in the drawer. Then something struck her.
‘How did you know it was a code? I mean if you hadn’t seen it before. Aren’t codes complicated?’
His grin was something she reckoned those Gervalons went in for at their blasphemous ceremonies before they sacrificed small furry animals, not that she’d actually seen such a horrid act, but there were stories.
‘Because it all becomes clear when you read it with an open mind,’
This was the limit of her forbearance. A new and sudden determination gripped her for she could feel something whispering to her. Temptation. She would fight back. She leapt up, hands to her ears, and reciting a new string of prayers for protection from The Evils of The Lascivious and The Perils of the Retributions, then gathering all of her determination and with finger pointing stormed.
‘Dangerous. Blasphemous. I’ll give you just one day to destroy all of this. And burn it, or I’m going to tell your parents,’
Wigran shot up, still waving the book, Trelli with a new mix of fear and rage swatted it out his grasp, then with teeth clenched dashed towards the volume, snatching it up, making to tear it apart. Wigran howled in anguish meaning to grab the book, grabbed her, swinging her about and thus she lost her balance. In trying to regain it, her right hand hit some of the jewels.
Because she was blocking most of his line of sight Wigran did not initially see the small red and blue shape growing. This only became apparent when the entire lower half of the mirrored surface was filled with a brightness of red and blue, silhouetting Trelli. Seeing the shock on his face she twisted about, to see the red and blue rising up as she comprehended it, into a wave, a big tide coming in wave, crashing on rocks. She yelped, threw up her hands to her face and tumbled backwards, over one chair and into a heap on the floor.
In the aftermath, the colours subsided, the surface became a passive leaf green, broken by flickers of blonde yellow sunlight.
This and the book were of no real consequence for either Trelli or Wigran. They were both looking at her hands.
Which had begun to glow with hues shifting between the reds and blues previously witnessed on the oculator.
The brief interlude of shared wide-eyed open mouthed silence was broken by the cries of dismay from Trelli.
Outline: Arketre is a soldier of the LifeGuard, (a state within a state in the Oakhostian, not so much emperor makers as emperor assessors). Although excellent as a Medician (healer/medic) and easy going when away from conflict; she has a disturbing side, a willingness to embrace battle and retribution as a means to solving what she judges as ‘wrong’ or injustice
Preamble: This ties in with the previous introduction of Karlyn. The man who was cause of the alarm fled and turned up in the custody of The LifeGuard at one of their many outposts, the officer in charge of The Astatheia observations, Captain Dekyria calls on Medician Arketre Beritt to ease the fellow out of his hysteria. There is a brief interlude Arketre is not aware of where Karlyn experiences her first awareness of her.
At the foot of the steps there was just about enough for one pace and there was a door, progress made all the more difficult by the presence of two troopers. Trex with his usual lazy smirk, Myrrek, always doleful, but both sharing a tense alertness which made Beritt inadvertently retreat until she banged her bare heel on the foot of the stairs. Erzns’ men. Sergeant Erzns’ file, the outposts’ Hounds. They never said anything about their activities, you could get banter and you would get sweeping generalisations about how the LifeGuard should be run but never any detail. Naturally you knew they did more than scout and secure the area from interlopers and the Just Curious.
One more loud, chilling scream of fear.
‘I’m hearin’ Fourth Hell’s worth of pain in there,’ Beritt asserted; her sense of service overwhelming any respect of rank ‘They been torturing someone Cap’n and gone so far y’all want me to patch ‘em up?’ agitation causing her accent to slip into its native sudd-hengestatian.
Trex knowingly winked at her in approval, she did not feel in the mood for any sort of compliment.
‘Nothing of the sort medician,’ the captain said wearily, he jerked a thumb to the door ‘In here is a fellow who has been messing about with business he should not have and got in far too deep. You are going to see what happens when someone is careless with The Astatheia,’
For an instant, her body would not move. Even smoothed out by the LifeGuard’s own idiosyncratic official term for The Stommigheid she was still prey to a deep sense of tension at the mention of the stuff. Not even her prior two years being in the religious atmosphere and analytical philosophy of the Devoteds of the Libratery had eased her instincts.
Beritt took in a deep breath; yes, she knew this was one of the reasons why the LifeGuard had the keep. Outpost Dorigen was a Station of Observation. To hold watch on the Southern West of the Oakhostian Empire, and to attend to any problems or threats of the small sorts be they subtle or downright violent. Dekyria’s ‘owls’ usually kept themselves to themselves in their own room with its metal boxes, winking lights and mirror’d surfaces with more lights. There were the requests for ‘something to help with a head pain’, the cause of which you never asked about. So, you didn’t really know what they got up to. This flurry of recollections being swept out of her head when the captain nudged her into the room.
‘Just like The Siege, Stitches ’ Trex crooned to her as he locked the door. She ignored him.
They’d taken a lot of trouble to put as much light as they could; they’d even brought in some decent bedding for the fellow to lie upon. You could almost call it comfy. Though it being obvious the man was in no condition to appreciate this nicety. Erzns lean and hardened by years of service held him by the waist, while his fileman Crylan grasped the shoulders and was speaking in his trademark everyday way, trying to infuse some sort of calm into the writhing figure. Two others stood by and shook their heads.
The man was not listening to anyone. Beritt had witnessed this sort of stare before; the look beyond the people in front of them, the stare driven by the fear running rampant through a head. She’d met it with silly lads who’d not meant to kill someone in a tavern brawl, with soldiers who had their first or one too many battles, folk who’d tried a mysterious brew they shouldn’t have. The LifeGuard did like its medicians to impose into the Community; Maintain a Presence they called it.
The man seemed to be seeing something on the opposite wall, as his wide-eyes were fixed there, another long wailing scream and a stream of incoherence. Crylan turned to Beritt.
‘Hullo Medician, you wouldn’t have something for this awful earache I’m getting would you?’
Dekyria spoke in a, slow, factual, precise way.
‘You are now going to learn something more about my file, Medician. We started noticing something upon the oculators,’ he fixed an intense gaze upon her ‘Oculator, Medician?’
‘Those dark grey metal boxes, with bright gems on the surface and black stand up mirror’d surfaces’
‘Well some might say you know too much already,’
‘Medicians end up being everywhere with everyone Captain,’
‘Fair comment. Anyway, we observed series of bright sparks jumping. It’s called grasshopping,’ he gestured to the tormented fellow’s thick grey brown leather belt inlaid on each side of the buckle with five large pale green gems ‘And this is one of the Jordisk devices they use. These allow someone to pass in and out of those places beyond the World Physical; just of the edge of the Zerstorung. Hazardous. Normally only the most daring, or insane use it. This fellow, I think, was just panicked and was desperate to get away. On his journey, he probably saw and was touched by other things way beyond nightmares. Some pathways take in all The Hells and more Medician, ‘
The man’s breath began to come in short desperate keening sounds, Beritt reckoned he was trying to say something important, but his terror was shredding his sanity.
‘What would you like me to do Captain?’ not at all certain of what was expected of her; she was still trying to cope with grasshopping and places beyond the World Physical; Zerstorung? The place where the demons lived and lurked.
‘Calm him down and get him to make sense, please. Y’see the noteworthy factor, from what we can trace is he started off on the south-eastern border with neighbouring Valeneg and now arrives two hundred and fifty myles south and west from there here in Decoryx’s mid north. Ending up a suspiciously close two myles from the outpost which is a bit of an upset seeing as how this part of our presence is supposed to be very secret. However, it is as if he knew where and who we were. Sergeant Erzns’ file was sent to find him,’ Beritt assumed the selection was intentional and not because they happened to be hanging about.
‘Screaming and crawling in circles on his hands and knees,’ the sergeant volunteered ‘We had to tie him over a horse and gag him to bring him in,’
Somewhere along a road separated by some distance and a small notch of time Karlyn twitched and sniffed.
‘I smells other horses an’ dirtier gags. But there’s nothing of fun. Hmm,’
‘No wonder he’s in a distressed state,’ Beritt suggested as she tried to come to terms with having a sort of contact with The Astatheia; while reckoning Stommigheid was the much better sounding.
‘Nevertheless,’ Dekyria interposed ‘I need to know if he truly was looking for us and why,’
‘Excuse me for asking Captain but does The Major know?’
‘He’s in contact with Drygnest, medician,’
‘Squirtz. The Castle Drygnest. Oh gladsome day. If Ah do something wrong, Ah will get Drygnest dropping a big midden right on mah poor little blonde head. Frib. Ah’d rather be midwifing a lord’s wife again. This is more a job for an Andliga, except for the LifeGuard keeping all its religious officers at Drygnest studying old texts,’
‘You’ll have to tell the sergeant and the fileman to let him go Captain. His restraint is agitating him,’
Neither man felt her suggestion was a good one and expressed as much with slow shakes of the head. The captain looked at Beritt, she looked back, he winced; she was right, but his authority was still required. She continued her fixed stare. These medicians did believe they had the right to address ethical issues to anyone, irrespective of rank.
‘You’ll have to tend to your own injuries if this goes wrong,’ he warned her. ‘Sergeant Erzns, Fileman Crylan when the medician is ready let the man go,’
‘Oh wondrous, the art of the shifting the responsibility’
There was little enthusiasm in the sergeant or fileman’s faces; in addition, the other two; Norvan and Drell who had been at rest against the far wall, eased off of it and moved in, poised. As Beritt drew closer the man twitched and again screamed. She was certain he was trying to speak, but she would have to try to break through the barrier of terror to get any sense, so she knelt before him, cold stones at once assailing her knees; his terror, this familiar sight.
The trick was to gift them normality.
‘Hello,’ she said softly laying emphasis on her sudd hengestatian drawl, accompanied by a manufactured gentle smile.
No scream from the man, just a grimace of fear and a pleading look. She thought it might be a start. Suddenly the man shot up to a crouch and Beritt was left kneeling before someone who previously had been struggling against two very capable soldiers. As he ground his teeth together and hissed in his breath, she was struck by her own sudden fear he would bite her nose, aside from the pain she would have to put up with endless jokes on the matter, particularly from Norvan and Drell, the pair now a little closer, even if they would be like lightening on the fellow should he bite her. Mixed feelings. She would press on with her work then.
‘Y’all are safe now,’ she said, plainly, but heavy on the apparent confidence. You had to make them believe in you. Truth be known to do this you had to make yourself believe in you.ke them vook their headsg farmer and made muffled howls. The Custodian scowled. He was an ol’occaisonal hub-hubin He set his attention on her as if only now aware she was there, his expression confused, his breathing turning to a simple panting as he looked down, now trying to make sense of this person kneeling, in apparent calm repose.
‘Y’ should sit with me an’ we can talk some ‘bout what troubles you,’ she knew this was a risk, patching up wounds was one thing, getting into the twists and turns of the mind was quite another, having the possibility of six soldiers ready to pounce and afterwards call her a fool was not helping. She took some solace she was still wearing her undershorts, so if she did end up sprawling backwards, all would remain hidden.
The man’s mouth worked, wordlessly at first, then he sank to his knees as if the effort to speak sense was draining him. Thus, face to face with Beritt who was in turn trying to feel she had this all under her control while not letting on she was making everything up as she went along. She patted his shoulder encouragingly, then the man suddenly lurched forward, and Beritt was glad she’d not crouched, after all any sort of sprawl was not dignified.
‘They…they…. they,’ he said, which she reckoned was a start, so she reached out and took his face in her hands.
‘Are not here,’ she hoped the words had sounded as a statement and not a suggestion. Also, she had a problem as she wanted to reach for something out of her supplies while keeping him calm. Never mind the rest watching. Concentrate. She lowered one hand to his chin, fumbled backwards to the other, assuring him all the while he was safe now.
‘The dire screams and the burning iron sun,’ the words came in short bursts, punctuated by more keening breath ‘Then I think they saw me. I saw dying…dying innocents, tortured, and knew I would be next. They loped. They slithered, they reached,’
Beritt with one hand brought up the slender wood, wrapped in leather tube. Using her thumb, she flipped open the top and passed it across the man’s nose, while holding her own breath, it would not do for the two of them to slip under its soothing vapours. Easing her other hand from his chin, she swiftly sealed the tube. The man blinked, swayed slightly once more surveyed the room, this time his eyes in focus, comprehension taking place of panic as the vapours did their calming work.
‘Safe,’ she said with a little more confidence ‘Secure,’ she added. Now to get him settled as her feet were freezing and knees protesting; so, with an inspiration born out of the memories of when her mom used to have her to care for her baby brothers she leant forward to carefully place a light kiss on his forehead. The shock of sudden tenderness caused him to sit down, blush and run his hand through his hair in surprise.
‘Goodness,’ he said suddenly ‘An angel,’
Drell muttered a complaint about how she’d not done similar to him when he’d been afflicted, causing Norvan to ask who would want to kiss a boil on the arse, particularly Drell’s ugly hairy rump.
‘What’s his secret that other men an’t got,’ grumbled Trex ‘I never had one,’
A glower from Erzns stifled any further commentary.
Meanwhile Beritt was trying not to fluster herself with surprise at her own precipitate action.
‘Oh no sir,’ she said to the man ‘Just a medician in the LifeGuard,’
‘Then I have arrived?’ he said, trembled and tears of relief began to flow down his face, as he took hold of her hands ‘But please don’t give me anything to sleep. Not sleep, they might find me in my dreams. I want to stay awake, there is much to be said,’
Beritt holding his hands rose. She would have to put her socks on. Once they both stood, she turned the man gently towards Captain Dekyria.
‘This is the officer sir you should talk to. Captain Dekyria is a fair and reasonable man,’
‘She’s obviously willing to kiss a captain’s arse,’
‘I heard that Trooper Norvan,’ growled Erzns.
Beritt with her back facing the sergeant while looking at trooper Norvan extended her right hand’s middle finger up the bridge of her nose indicating she’d heard him too. Dekyria had either chosen to ignore lower rank business or was concentrating upon the fellow and although not possessing Beritt’s capacity for gentleness none the less spoke in his own calm respectful way.
‘You’ve obviously had a very troubled journey sir. We will get you some refreshments and we might have some conversation. May we know your name?’
The narrative of the series takes place in a world, which may our future, or an alternative version. Or some world in this vast universe which bears similarities to ours. At some stage in the past a previously unknown Natural Force arrived. The circumstances of its arrival are clouded with allegory in the form of legends and religions. Its arrival caused disruptions in the environment exacerbated through profligate usage by opportunistic factions, which culminated in series of wars. One result of this turbulence was the bringing into existence of a number of realities which are linked to the world by tenuous pathways. Humanity is the only race inhabiting the original world, which in these Books is commonly called The World Physical .
The Natural Force is called by many names; the most common being The Ethereal or The Stommigheid. It has many properties; to name a few, a means of travel or communication, a destructive force, an engine of power. Some beings have a latent ability to use this while others work through machines or device we might recognised as laptops. It is believed in certain quarters every being has some link no matter how small or tenuous to this. Most consider it something to be wary of, in some areas of the world its use is officially restricted to the ruling authorities, although unsanctioned use is common. The folk who engage in such are known by authorities and public as The Jordisk , they are not organised and generally shunned. This differs from tolerated The Mechanicals who work solely with devices for such matters as communication, weather prediction and industrial tools, they work in guilds and dislike unsanctioned work as much as anyone. There is naturally a level of hypocrisy in that the official religions often consider its use a sin, while making certain accommodations. (Same as it ever was). Amongst some scholars there is the a question to how much influence Humanity has upon this force and vice versa. Some maintain there is now a symbiosis.
A second and arguably more dangerous result was the arrival of alien predatory creatures, these are viewed as demonic creatures and their realm and collective name being The Zerstorung; categorised by most of humanity as The Lords of The Land, The Lords of The Deep and The Lords of The Air; the latter having a kinship with Humanity. (although they are very touchy about that assertion)
The majority of the narrative takes place in The Oakhostian a long standing empire on a land mass similar to Europe whose general level of civilisation bears resemblances to the early 17th Century with aspects of later centuries also noticeable. The empire comprises a number of princedoms and city states. Imperial houses come and go as do princes, the principal dynamic being the Grand Dukes of the various princedoms. Religion teaches of “The Good Lord God” and is organised by the currently lacklustre Ecclesiastes, itself relying upon supposedly subservient institutions. Firstly, The Custodians of The Wordsimilar to Inquisitors but very fragmented with a tendency for independence or internal intrigue and secondly The Libratery a wholly female organisation set in various nearly fortified locations with its own agenda to survive, guard the culture and supply social support to the localities. Most formidable and least liked is The LifeGuard,run on military lines and originally charged with assisting protecting The Stability of the Empire; it is now very much a state within a state supressing outbreaks of instability as it sees fit. The Libratery and The LifeGuardshare a certain accord based on mutual respect and suspicion , particularly in the area of The Stommigheid at which they are both adept. The LifeGuardinsist upon their own term The Astatheia.
The realms which are literally attached to the world are homes to a variety of folk, some once human, others are of The Zerstorung. In Volume Two
The Shadow Lords are introduced, the first to harness some of the Ethereal potential and thus rule the world, of Human origin due to a schism over whether to continue ruling and some hubris they quit the realm now the domain of Humanity. Although their nature and intentions are seen by most Human authorities as distant and vague to the point of being Legends some disparate groups are plotting a return and seizing back lordship.
The books cover an interlude when the general informed consensus in The Oakhostian is the danger of an large incursion by The Zerstorung is at a high point. This has resulted in divergent approaches. Some are making preparation to repel this, others endeavour to use the Ethereal/ Stommigheid to foil it taking place, within The Custodians the notion is to supress all use of the Stommigheid as they see this as the cause. Some folk seek to gain the favour of The Zerstorung, while others more opportunistic look to make the best of whatever happens. The vast majority of the population remain ignorant of the situation.
All this takes place against the backdrop of a new, young untested emperor seeking to assert himself from forces within his and realm and at least one rival empire.
These events and manoeuvrings play a part in the narrative. Although such as members of the nobility and the emperor himself do figure in the tales, the stories are mostly seen from the perspective of characters whose positions are relatively low in the social chain, in particular the three central characters. These three would rather it remain so but events and their own natures preclude them from remaining in the background. The books therefore chart their progress through a turbulent episode in Oakhostian history. In this era whereas there are external threats; internal rivalries, factionalism, opportunists and the instability of individual princes cause crises of troubling magnitude.
Thus as is the case in many wars there is more than one reason for the start, more than two sides and a myriad of perspectives to the arguments. Bearing this in mind on finally settling upon a basic direction for the narrative I was mindful of the the folk swept up in the events not as victims, but who find themselves at the jagged edge of one part of the conflict; trying to make sense of it all, survive and therefore in achieving those two make some impact, although not necessarily the one those above them would wish them too. Of course there would be times where the more alert and astute parties would encounter opportunities to improve their own situations; in these volumes such motivations are complicated and varied, depending on the particular opportunity.
Therefore this is not an apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, nor completely ravaged world. Somewhat like ours, perched on the brink of complete disaster, with most folk hoping whatever might happen doesn’t happen in their time or place. Thus there are tracts when it all might seem low-key, and the action sporadic unless of course you happen to live in that location. Again somewhat like our world. Confusion, poor perceptions, hubris, random events, clashing of motives, haste through fear or suspicion are some of the engines which give rise to events. Once more like our world.
I would warn prospective readers, over and over again, particularly those who read Fantasy, there are high levels of feel-good, upbeat and heroic endeavours winning through. I make no apologies for that.