“It’s bloody boring here.”
“We get to spar.”
“We’ve been sparring for four hundred years! Aren’t they going to get themselves sorted out any time soon?”
A cough sounded in the grey, and Locsyn and Gwyth looked up as Rhyfelwyr stood over them. He gestured, and the two soldiers went to spar once more.
“The time is close. I’ve been watching and talking. It will happen in less than a year.”
“I know, Taflen. That’s why I want them to spar more than ever.”
“You could let them rest. They won’t fail you on the battlefield. You know that.”
“They never have.” Rhy shook himself for a moment. “And I’ve never let them rest, either. Where’s Rhocas, by the way?”
“Practising with his group. He hasn’t changed his schedule in the fifty years since he knew this day was coming. So why are you suddenly worried?”
The sergeant gestured about. “Because of this. Because of everything that’s happening. Those idiots are trying to resurrect Hymerodraeth Heula by pissing on everything it stood for.”
“Why do you think the best of Glanhaol Fflamboethi chose the side they did? The rest of us know it just as much as you do.”
“And the others?”
“There’s only so many of us as can go. But our whole squad was picked. Even Rhocas and myself.”
“I’d be a damn poor sergeant if I couldn’t get my whole squad into this lottery.” Rhy spat on the ground. “Fighting’s easy.”
Taflen muttered. “I don’t think you understand, Rhy. We’re the only squad that was selected. Out of everyone.”
Rhy reddened for a moment, then looked at his old friend. “Then we need to make sure we’re worthy of the award, don’t we?” He paused. “Llof?”
The historian chuckled. “Disappeared. Which means he’s killing someone.”
“Again? How many is that now?”
“Even I lost count, Rhy. But he’ll be sharp when the time comes.”
“I never doubted him, Taflen, just the rest of us.”
The old soldier stopped in front of his sergeant. “Doubted yourself, you mean. Rhy, you’ve been leading this squad for four hundred and fifty years, give or take a few. I’d think you know us fairly well by now. We’re never going to let you down.”
“I know. But this campaign feels different. Like we’re rolling all the dice.”
“We are. And we’ll be getting snake-eyes. And we’re still going to win. We could probably stand back and let Llof do all the work, even.”
Rhyfelwyr chuckled. “Llofruddiwr against an army. Even he’d have trouble with that many.” He paused. “Maybe.”
The two friends walked into the grey mists, listening to the distant clash of sword on shield, as Locsyn and Gwyth sparred yet again.
The boys were back in town.
Welcome, welcome back to the second instalment of Birthing the Breed. Last time around I showed you how to create the physical aspect of a fantasy race. This time around I’m going to focus on the behavioural. This is important for several reasons, for it dictates how the creature acts, how the society around it is built, and in some ways how the setting hangs together. Fantasy fiction, more than any other, hangs on the setting, and the aura that it creates.
Choice #2: Behaviour – Is the creature a hunter? A farmer? Does it like solitary occupations or tribal ones? As with the prior post, this single question is going to take up the rest of the article, and I’ll break it out into subheadings once more.
Predator or Prey – Is the creature a predator animal, or a prey animal? In more civilized terms, does it hunt, or does it farm? A good example of the prey animal as a civilization is the traditional, lord of the rings elves. They care for and nurture nature, they live in large clusters, and their racial tendencies are towards pacifism and “living with”, rather than “taking from”. Contrast that with a traditional predator, the half orc or orc. In almost every RPG or fantasy setting, from Eberron to the Wheel of Time (Trollocs), orcs and their cousins are aggressive, greedy, militaristic and evil. This is how a traditional fantasy setting portrays predator behaviour.
There are a wide variety of nuanced ways to discuss fantasy races, and it’s important not to make them too black or white, as otherwise the setting feels too generic, too simplistic. Most societies are a mixture of predator and prey, but here are the important characteristics to choose from for each.
Creatures from a predator race are more likely to be solitary, to be focused on a single task, aggressive in personality, larger, less focused on the family unit, and more acquisitive in nature. They are also more common to play the villain in settings where an entire race is cast as the villain, rather than a kingdom.
Creatures from a prey race are more likely to stick together, to work in tribal units with sentries provided by experienced members, to farm, more pacific in personality, and less focused on personal greed, although for members of a prey race, that is by no means certain.
Society - Closely related to how a race behaves in a fantasy setting is the way the society it lives in is constructed. Is the society a traditional human one, of busy cities and farms around the outside providing food? If so, it’s fairly similar to the feudal system of Medieval Europe, which was imposed from the top down by nobles who sought to control the output from those farms. Or is it a wandering tribal society? In the real world and in fantasy, these racial traits are usually assigned to an ethnicity living in a desert or tropical jungle.
The most important aspect of society to determine is whether it is an imposed society, or an agreed upon society. Effectively, dictatorship or democracy. A dictatorship, be it of the few or the many, means that that group somehow seized power, or was placed in power, and is now holding it over every other member of the race. An agreed upon society allows the leaders to be removed without bloodshed (presumably), and in the world of traditional fantasy, tends to be ruled by mercantile interests who see money as their prime objective, rather than force.
All of these societies have social stratification, resulting in a setting where some creatures are always better than others. This creates many opportunities in the fantasy world for sub-plots, be they looking for advancement, the disdain of “betters”, a people’s rebellion, an overthrow from a dispossessed branch of the royal family. Always make sure to create a society with friction points, places where racial inequality can come to the fore, because that is where the character will shine.
I hope this has been helpful to you in creating new races for your fantasy fiction. Next time, we’ll look at another aspect of creating a fantasy race.
Several times they were struck from the side or the front by opposing Lianese soldiers, but each time, the Lianese were repulsed, although one close encounter had hung in the balance until Rhocas had gathered himself and sent a jet of flame playing across the Lianese front lines. Their moral broken, the Lianese tried to flee, and were slain by the charging Veryan forces.
Each skirmish brought Rhocas, Rhyfelwyr and their forces closer to the warehouses, and now they could see the bulky shapes only a few streets away, the heavy forms promising food and sustenance for weeks to come. Calling to his troops to rally on, Rhyfelwyr trotted round a corner to find himself in a market square, still filled with the stands and stalls of the hawkers. Cautious for an ambush, he gestured left and right, sending Taflen and Gwyth to scout through the remains. The other soldiers tucked themselves in tightly, forming a small square of shields at the edge of the open area.
Taflen advanced cautiously, his sword and shield held at the ready, eyes as much on the roofs around him as they were on possible foes hidden behind the stalls. Gwyth strode forward, openly challenging any who would dare to come stand with him, using his shield to swipe the stands aside, knocking them to the ground. After both had passed through two-thirds of the square, they glanced at one another, and nodded at Rhyfelwyr. The sergeant led his forces forward at a steady pace, until he glanced upwards and saw Llof standing on the building opposite, waving and point down at the street below. Rhy cursed, then shouted at the men around him. “Square, form a square! Pull the stands in as barricades! Now! Now!”
The Veryan soldiers leapt to obey, with Gwyth picking up two stands at a time and stacking them into a deep wall in the direction that Llof had gestured. Within moments there was a shielded square of Veryan forces, wrapped around by an outer barrier of wooden stalls and market detritus. As they finished readying themselves, Lianese forces poured from two of the streets into the market. Combined, the two forces outnumbered the Veryan three to one or four to one, and Rhy steeled himself for what was to come. Leaning over, he tapped Rhocas on the shoulder. “Don’t both using your magic until we’re engaged. Otherwise, you’ll be a pincushion.” Turning to bellow to the soldiers around him, the sergeant cried out orders for the defence. “Grab spheres! Meet their charge at five paces! Then swords!” The soldiers readied appropriately, their faces showing the strain of half a day fighting in the alleys of Horaim, for the sun stood high overhead, and it had barely crested the horizon when the fire had first struck the north gates of the city. Here and there, a shield or a sword sagged towards the ground, but their comrades would jostle the arm back to its proper place.
A trumpet rang out from within the Lianese forces, and Locsyn saw the javelins being readied that would precede the charge. His arm pained him greatly, and was still all but useless, but he had been able to sling his shield from his shoulder and strap it to his upper arm. He could barely move it, but it covered half his body, and that was better than before. Wordlessly, he took the sphere of glass that Rhocas proffered him and tucked it away in his belt pouch. A second trumpet sounded, and Locsyn ducked down as the Lianese charge began and the javelins flew overhead. Most were deflected away, caught in the barrier or glancing off shields, but a few pierced through the shields, and others found gaps in the defences, opening small holes in the Veryan forces. Men stepped forward to fill the holes, leaving an already thin line even thinner. Soon, Locysn knew he would be called to step into the line, and do the best he could with but one arm.
As the Lianese forces reached three paces from the barricade, Rhyfelwyr cried “Throw!”, and the glass spheres were hurled outward, smashing into the face and shields of their foe, shattering into clouds of abrasive shards and cutting splinters. The front lines of the charge stumbled and collapsed, blinded Lianese soldiers collapsing to the ground with broken and bloodied faces. Those behind tripped and fell over their comrades, leaving the charge a ruin before it even reached the barriers. And now, when they tried to charge again, there would caltrops scattered across the ground, promising injury to any who tried to step forward.
The Veryan forces watched as the Lianese withdrew, picking their wounded up and pulling back to gather against the edges of the market square, building courage for another charge. Rhyfelwyr wished they had been able to take more advantage of the confusion of the broken charge, but that would have meant breaking the shield wall and stepping over the barricades, and giving up that defensive surety for a momentarily opportunity was not worth the cost. He called out, and the second, and last, round of spheres was brought to hand. There would be nothing but the sword after this, and if the Lianese were wise to that and started to bombarbed the Veryan forces with arrows, the only response Rhy could conjure would be a deadly charge over the barricades, into a waiting force. He could only hope that the battle was going well enough elsewhere, so that these Lianese forces did not have the time for a leisurely battle.
I thought I’d change things up a little bit this week, and given people three writing prompts to choose from. One is SF, one is Fantasy, and the last one is, well, something. If you do write a story based on one of these, give me a link, because I’d love to see what they inspire.
SF – An interstellar empire crumbles as their engines slowly stop working, for no known reason
Fantasy – A flame sputtered and then died, and with it magic began to drain from the world
Other – Rifts appear, and from them step both angels and devils
Armies clashed that day on the field, as magic tore into mundane. Bow and arrow met flintlock, and fire from the mages was countered by the roar of cannons. Elves there were, and trolls too, and for once they fought on the same side of battle, the sylvan creatures using their lithotrophic allies as shields.
The sky darkened as the elves let loose their arrows, but the roar of massed muskets provided an equally sharp counterpoint, and even the thick hides of the trolls were no match for the volume of shot. Many fell, as did many of the gunpowder wielders, pierced through by shafts.
Dwarves burst from the ground, axes swinging left and right as they worked themselves into a battle frenzy, shattering apart the massed ranks of their foe. Orcs and goblins charged as they saw the disarray in their foe, piercing war cries placing fear in enemy breasts.
Yet their foe rallied, and legions of pikes bore down upon the advancing force of orcs and goblins, and their berserk charge failed upon the thousand spikes. The dwarves fell too, as they succumbed to foes with armour heavier than their own.
Both sides stood beaten, bloody, all but broken. Mages had cast their final spells, the cannons had fallen silent, and the exchange of archery and gunfire was only a ragged counterpoint to the screams of the wounded.
Heavy footsteps sounded in the east, and the forces of magic cheered, for the giants had come at last. Late to the battle perhaps, but no foe had yet thrown them down. From their hands spun great boulders, crashing through the lines of the mundane. With a roar, they jogged forth, clubs in hand, ready to sweep this pesky foe from the field.
Thin sounds came upon the air, muffled by cloud and fog, and it was only when the first explosion struck that the giants cast their eyes upwards. Hanging beyond even the mighty reach of the giants were dirigibles, and from their bellies came forth great waves of iron canisters. A few failed to explode when they struck the ground, but all too many sent great gouts of earth skyward.
Whirlwinds of shrapnel tore through the forces of magic, raining down upon them like so much hail. Ruin walked across the land, leaving little more than muddied trenches, but the giants used their great forms to hide the lesser races beneath, sacrificing themselves against the deadly iron.
When at last the rain stopped, the army of magic stepped forth once more, only to find themselves facing a reformed battle line. Three rows of flintlock muskets barked in turn, and once more the metal shod feet of the pikemen ground forward.
Man had come to claim this land as his own.
This time over at Examiner.com. It’s a lot more focused on my upcoming book, Tarranau, what it was like writing it, what I think of the book. Stop by and take a look.
So, I have been interviewed once more, this time on the subject of World Building, how I got about it, what order I do it in, and so on. I highly recommend it if you want to get a look inside the process I use.
It is nice to have you back again for another interview. It was hard picking just one subject to interview you on last time, so I am so pleased that we can get back together for another writing romp. You have put a great deal of thought into building your world. Today, we are going to explore just what you went through to build your setting for your Four Part Land novels. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk a little on how you built your world and why it turned out as it did.
Do you remember the first moment that your world was conceived? Does anything stand out to you as being the major source of inspiration for your setting?
The Lianese line began to slacken and turn back on itself on one side of the square, and Rhy tried to look over the combat to see what could steal their resolve, but he could see nothing. The scene resolved itself moments later, as several Lianese soldiers collapsed with daggers piercing their throats, revealing a blood-soaked Llofruddiwr standing with two of his long-knives in hand, slashing into his Lianese foes. Caught between a suddenly surging shield wall on one side and a dervish on the other, the Lianese turned back to back, fighting desperately as two of them tried to slay Llofruddiwr. He dismissed their pitiful attempts, catching each strike on his knives before batting one Lianese weapon aside and kicking the soldier in the groin. One foe incapacitated, Llof turned his full attention on the other, and in a whirlwind of cuts and slices, hacked away at the wrist on the sword hand, wounding it until it could no longer hold its weapon. Both foes rendered incapable, he stabbed each, cutting an artery and letting them bleed out.
The Lianese forces on that side of the barricade were soon finished, but two more Veryan troops had fallen, rending their total count down to nine, now that Llofruddiwr had returned to bolster them. That left those nine against fifteen of the Lianese, and the Veryan forces were exhausted. Locsyn could barely stand, having been cut along his thigh, unable to lower the shield to defend himself. Rhocas had gained a wound across the back of his sword hand, and his arm trembled each time he tried to lift the blade. Gwyth stood like a rock, but this rock bled from cut after cut, and even his prodigious strength had slowed and weakened. Only Taflen stood unwounded, for even Rhyfelwyr and Llofruddiwr had been struck. Knowing what must be done, Rhy called out “Charge!” and leapt over the barricade, followed by Llof on his left and Taflen on his right, with the other soldiers a step behind.
Rhy could feel the energy fast draining from his body as he pushed it beyond all limits, and he staggered on his third step, nearly falling to the ground as he struggled with the enemy in front of him. Only a Llof knife-thrust stopped that stumble from being the end, and in a moment Rhyfelwyr was back on his feet, his sword sweeping around in a low arc to cut the ankle of an enemy, shield held high to protect from strikes to the head. Gwyth summoned his massive strength for one last blow, and simply slammed his blade into a Lianese shield, cutting through the wood and metal to drive the tip of his weapon into his foe’s neck. Sword caught in the shield, he let it go and grasped his shield with two hands, laying about him as if it were a club.
The far end of the line was anchored by Rhocas and Locsyn, and they fought as a team, one blocking strikes, the other leaping forward to thrust through the openings created. The style of combat was alien to the Lianese troops, and two fell before they began to understand the rhythm of blows, and drive the two Veryan soldiers backwards. Stumbling, Locsyn was only just able to turn his body to catch the attack on his shield, and he saw Rhocas take a further step back, leaving Locsyn fighting two on his own. Locsysn did all he could to defend himself, not even trying to counter, only trying to deflect the strikes as they came at him. He was rewarded for his skill a few moments later when a lance of blue flame flew over his shoulder and played upon the nearest Lianese troops, incinerating the two he had been fighting, and then turning down the line to catch two more.
The burst of flame from Rhocas left the young mage in a near faint, kneeling on the ground and retching, but it had shattered the Lianese soldiers entirely, and they scattered, a few caught from behind by the daggers of Llofruddiwr, but most escaping, the Veryan soldiers too exhausted to try and follow. Gathering themselves in a tight circle, Taflen applied bandages to the various wounds, cutting strips of cloth from the dead soldiers around them. They waited there for many minutes as the sun passed across the sky, sprawled upon the ground like so many dead, their bodies shut down. Only when the sun began to touch the tops of the buildings did Rhyfelwyr stand again, and gesture the others onwards, towards the warehouses.
A glow sank down in the northern sky
framed in light, pure and dry
A silhouette of ancient form
standing there, before the dawn
It called and beckoned and made me know
That to the peak I must go
And so I strode far past my door
hunting now, for evermore
I looked and dug and searched a while
And with long years, I did compile
A guide, a map, a way out to there
That place beyond lost in the glare
I strove and struggled and tried my best
But when I lay unto my rest
I still reached for my ending goal
And down I sank, not quite whole
There is only one thing in sight for me
and with each step
it goes further back into eternity
A single lost moment
all wrapped up in chance
It was a bright blue day
All sunny and warm
And yet within each shining light
lurked a great harm
For there was little in what was said
to show compassion or remorse
All that we have now
We have taken from them instead
They have killed my only daughter
a little girl of but eight or nine
I went to bring them to the slaughter
But what I found instead was mine