world building

The Satyr’s Tale

“She is…exquisite,” Lord Ricard Dafaar spoke, almost in a whisper. His hand reached gently, reverently forward, before finding rest on the cool marble statue that stood before him. “Never have I seen such mastery in stonework; it is almost as if she were alive.”

Baeyn smiled lazily and gave a slight bow to the aged, portly man, the bells woven into his long tangled hair jingling lightly at the motion, his ribbon adorned horns dipping. A human gesture, but one he had adapted to with little effort. He approached the man slowly, his cloven hooves clicking against the stone floor.

“My people sing the song of stone, “he said, his voice a strange, melodic harmony, “our talents passed from generation to generation. Masters of masonry and sculpture, our works beloved and demanded by kings and priests and all great men.”

Baeyn paused, and turned his square pupiled eyes towards the masterpiece that stood before them. She truly was awe inspiring – every detail, every curve, every feature a mark of perfection. An illusion so expertly wrought that the coldness of her stone betrayed the warmth in her image.

“But yes…she is a masterpiece even amidst masterpieces. Lady Aileen Dafaar…an ancestor of yours, yes?”

Lord Ricard nodded but did not turn his head. His eyes felt unable to blink, his mouth agape but speechless. Again, Baeyn smiled.

“She was not easy to obtain. The mountains are more dangerous than ever, the caverns of my people infested with dark things I shudder to mention in such…refined company. It was a costly expedition, in more ways than one.”

The human lord’s mouth closed, his stance straightened. His awe, though it had not completely vanished, was shadowed by his greed. His eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly as he cleared his throat.

“I am sure we can come to an arrangement. What is your price?”

“Can there be a price placed on such a piece?” Baeyn replied. “Could you place a value on something so perfect? My ancestor, blood of my blood, shed that blood, and tears, and sweat, to capture her likeness. Wars have been waged over lesser works than she…”

Lord Ricard’s face hardened. He’d heard such tactics before.

“Come now! Don’t play games with me, satyr – your kind always has a price. Name it and stop this foolishness.”

Baeyn’s horns tingled, skin flushed. He forced a nonchalant chuckle.

“For anyone else, she would be beyond price. But you? You can have her for a song.”

The lord’s face collapsed into confusion.

“A song?”

“Yes,” Baeyn answered, “a very specific song. Sing it, and the Lady is yours. No further price.”

Try as he might, Rickon could not conceal his glee. He made sure that he was known as a patron of the arts, and prided himself on his knowledge of all the popular tunes, which he loved to sing. Badly.

“Name it then!” he cried. “Name it and I will serenade you more sweetly than any lover has ever been serenaded!”

“Sing me the Song of Shattering,” Baeyn said, his voice low and suddenly mirthless, the music gone.

Lord Rickon frowned.

“I don’t know tha…”

“You know the song,” Baeyn interrupted, “It’s been sung to you many times.”

“I…”

“With every brick that was laid in your courtyard, it was sung. With every stone that was placed in your manor, it was sung. With every rock and stone and sculpture you’ve commissioned, it’s been sung.”

Lord Rickon’s face paled, trembled. Had he? He tried hard to recall. He’d hired plenty of satyr stonesmiths over the years, and yes, they were always humming in their strange double voices, but the song…what was the song?

“I’ll remind you,” Baeyn said, as if he read the nobleman’s mind. He closed his eyes, and began to sing.

In truth, no one can sing like a satyr can. They are born with two sets of vocal cords, and through them, sing harmonies unimaginable to any other race. They sing with every task that has meaning, with every moment they wish to mark. They sing their histories, their memories, their wishes and dreams.

This song was a memory and a promise. A memory of lands once held by his people. A dream of a better time. An anguish for what his people lost. The bitterness of betrayal, when they sought help from allies that failed to give their aid. Even ancient allies…like the noble line of Dafaar.

Lord Rickon found himself paralyzed by the sound, the voice. His heart pounded, his body shook. He felt to his core the weight of his family’s past, of their use, abuse, and abandonment of the stonefolk who had sought their aid. As the song grew in fury and tempo, he fell to his knees.

And with a final, trilling, mournful note, the marble statue shattered. The flawless image of the matron of his line, a work of art so perfect its like would never again be known, crumbled to dust. Sobs overtook him. He buried his hands in the dust. He felt lost, helpless. He had not realized how much this connection to the past had meant to him.

Until it was gone.

Baeyn left him there, weeping in the rubble. His hooves clicked on the stone floor as he left, beating a rhythm that pleased his ears. A breeze caught his hair, his bells jangled, and a weight lifted from his soul. He sighed in satisfaction. It was a costly vengeance, but it was worth it. This debt had spent a long time building interest.

A tune came to his heart. He smiled. And sang.

“The Measure of a Man” – Turn-a-trope #4, #WOEGTTT

This one was incredibly tough! Were it not that I refused to be beaten by my own challenge, I would have tossed in the towel. That said, I think the following tale does a decent job of skewering the trope, “A Man is Not a Virgin.”

Enjoy.

Tomas rode with the fury of a man possessed. The gates of the ancient temple of Kalziban lay behind him, and in his wake, the bodies of a legion of slain hellions. Ahead, he could see the door that lead to the inner temple, and the Pool of Tears. He knew that he would find her there. Lillian. His sworn ward.

As the Knight of the cloak, it has been his responsibility to protect her. And he had, through countless dangers, countless attempts on her life. She was the last of the purest bloodline, and her death would profit many an evil man. He had fought dozens to defend her, and bested them all. Sir Tomas of the Cloak was, perhaps, the greatest knight who’d ever served.

She had vanished in the night, despite all precautions. Tomas knew this time would come, had since the moment of her birth. Tonight, the moons above aligned with the Dread star, the Blood Eye of Kalziban. He knew that whoever took her, would take her here. His horse stumbled, fell. Tomas leapt from its back as it went, tumbling to the ground in clash of steel and leather. He cried out as he struck a stony pillar. His horse, ridden far beyond exhaustion, cried out, and expired. He rose to his feet, and ran up the stairs and through the temple’s doors.

“You’re too late,” Alcyon cackled. The dread summoner held up his hands, dripping with blood. “Too late, hero, too late to save her, too late to stop the summoning!”

Tomas fell to his knees with a sob. Before him, splayed across the pentacle carved into the ground, was Lillian. Sweet, innocent Lillian. The last of legal heir to the kingdom of Tancreath. The Virgin Princess. The Keeper of the Barrier. His sworn ward.

Tears fell from Tomas’ cheek. He cast away his shield as he took her hand in his own, felt the cold lifelessness therein. Her body, a ruin of blood and savagery, her thighs, a spectacle of disaster and debauchery.  Tomas’ sword slipped from his free hand, and reached, tenderly, for her cold staring eyes, unfocused and staring into the void. He closed them, softly, and brushed away a lock of coal black hair.

“It would have been enough,” the knight croaked hoarsely, “to have just killed her. ”

“Oh,” the summoner spoke, his voice filled with sarcastic mock pity, “yes, it would have. But then I would not have gotten to see this, would I have? The undefeatable Sir Tomas of the Cloak, brought to his knees? Not by a sword, not by a lance, not by an army of men…but by a man. A single man, with nothing in his hands…but blood.”

Alcyon continued to laugh madly. Tomas felt his head swim. A strange, numbing wave crashed against his nerves, his face, his limbs tingling. He rose, slowly, a final sob given to his fallen ward as he raised her up in his arms. He turned, looked to the Pool of Tears. Slowly, he walked towards it, heedless of the summoner and his madness. Around him, lights began to grow, strange, glowing, otherworldly emanations that rose from the ancient runes and sigils carved and cast throughout the hall.

“Too late!” Alcyon cried, sobbing in mirth, “She is dead!”

Tomas didn’t listen. He continued to the pool, till he stood overlooking its pale, milky waters. A drop of blood fell from Lillian’s outstretched arm, and slipped into the pool, an angry red swirl on a sea of pearl.

“She is dead,” Alcyon repeated, but his laughter cracked, slowing, “It is over, fool! And besides…”

The summoner nodded at the pool.

“It takes the life of a virgin of royal birth to halt the summoning of the Dread Lord Kalziban. She was the last. It is over!”

Tomas, silent still, lowered the girl’s body to the pool, then watched her slip beneath the surface. He stood then, turned to the mad summoner.

“Do you know the measure of a man, summoner? Do you know why I took up the Cloak?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper. Alcyon’s grin faltered.

“The Cloak is not an easy burden to bear. Its wearer must be good and strong. Generous and just. Compassionate and merciful. Swift of blade, swift of defense. Trustworthy and…pure.”

The knight turned and looked at the summoner, his eyes rimmed with red, stained with tears, but cold, so cold.

“Pure. Untouched by the hands, the lips, the body of a lover.”

Tomas ran a hand through hair as black as pitch, the same color as Lillian’s.

“I took the Cloak because I was born a bastard. And now…”

Tomas stepped to the edge of the pool. Alcyon stumbled forward, slipped in blood. He crashed to the ground, then looked up, his eyes wide with something they had never known.

Fear.

“…now I will see my sister safely to the Underworld.”

Tomas dived into the pool. Alcyon shrieked, raged, as the knight’s heavy armour pulled him quickly downward. The summoner scrambled to the pool, plunging his arms in, staining the water pink with blood. But the knight was gone, the pool empty.

Around him the walls began to shake. The sigils began to glow a violent red.  A sharp smell of ozone filled the air, and the crack of the barrier, the gateway between worlds, slammed through the air. Alcyon howled as the dissipating energies tore about the room. The ceiling quaked, and pieces began to collapse.

Then bitterly, he laughed, as the temple collapsed around him.

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 26 – “A Subtle Streak of Red”

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Howdy all! Time for week 26 of the lovely Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge! This week, I return to a world I touched on briefly in “A Little Bit of Magic…” with this week’s theme, ”Do you notice anything different about me?”.  I thought it apt! Here we are, right at 500 words, with “A Subtle Streak of Red.”

Magic is a squirrely thing. The universe doesn’t like it, but it’s willing to accept it, so long as it stays quiet and unobtrusive. Kind of like that weird kid who sits in the corner and hums all the time; you can pretend he isn’t there, until he does something shocking.

But there’s nothing wrong with him. His reality is just different from yours, the two don’t agree with each other. He does little things; rearranging the pieces on a chessboard repetitively. No one cares. He stacks books on each other. No one cares. It’s not till he’s jumping on tables, flinging objects and howling at the top of his lungs that we react. Depending on the intensity of his outburst, we don’t do anything at first. We sit there, shocked, watching as he screams obscenities and beats his chest.

It may take a moment but eventually, someone snaps, tries to settle him down. They straighten up the mess, shush him, and guide him back to the corner, humming. Then, everyone pretends it didn’t happen, and goes back to doing their thing. But things have changed. The books he threw are damaged, torn. The plates, shattered. The nick-knacks all unbalanced and rearranged. Everyone pretends like it’s back to normal, but it’s not.

That’s magic. Either you work your casting carefully, making tiny changes that the universe will ignore, or you do something drastic, and accept that parts will fade as entropy forces itself upon reality. If you know what you’re doing, things won’t be the way they were before the reset. You’ll make big changes, even if they weren’t what everyone thought they were. Like a stage magician, it’s distraction, making a big show with one hand while carefully doing the real work with the other. It’s harder than it sounds. Or, wait…maybe it’s exactly as hard as it sounds. Because it doesn’t sound easy, does it?

So I’m practicing. A subtle change, a streak of color in my hair. The kind of thing that someone will look at and double-take, but then make excuses for having missed. Small magic, to get the hang of the basics. I close my eyes, concentrate. I recite softly the incantations that let me exert my will over reality…and there. A streak of red sprouts from my bangs.

I turn to the guy next to me on the bus. He doesn’t know me, but I made sure to chat him up when I got on, made sure he got a good look at me. That’s important. I get his attention.

”Do you notice anything different about me?”

He looks at me, friendly at first, then his brow furrows. His eyes glaze slightly. I can smell the faint hint of ozone, that indicates that the universe is about to rebel. Damn it!

And then…

“No, sorry. Should I?”

I breathe out, just becoming aware I’d been holding my breath.

“No, thanks man.”

He nods, turns back to his book.

The color stays. Just like magic.

“Paying off the Debt” – A new Pinky Black story, inspired by a post by Kate Loveton!

This one isn’t part of any challenge. This week, Kate Loveton posted and awesome story about an eviction – make sure you read it here!  I found the story so good that I wanted to punch the antagonist right in the kidneys…and realized that, being a fictional character, that’d be kind of hard. So it inspired me to wreck a little fictional justice at the hands of my favorite thug, Pinky Black.

“Johnny, I need your help. Ma needs your help.”

I looked across at the man that was talking to my boss, Johnny the Gent, and saw the look of worry on his face. His eyes flitted nervously from the Gent, who sat in a nice, big, comfy leather chair, to me. Big, burly. Angry looking. I’m sure it made me look more intimidating. It was meant to. Johnny steepled his fingers, and breathed in deeply through his nose.

“What I don’t understand, Henry, is how things got this far in the first place,” Johnny said after a moment’s consideration. “You dad, Mr. Pauley, he passed, what, three, four months ago?”

Henry nodded, his hands worrying themselves together.

“So how is it that your mother, dear old Mrs. Pauley, hasn’t paid her rent in three months?”

Henry swallowed, hard.

“I…I guess it’s just not something she ever thought about, Johnny. Pa always took care of those things…”

Johnny’s hand slammed down on the rich, mahogany wood desk in front of him. Henry jumped. I didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink.

“You knew your father took care of these things, and not you, nor one of your five brothers bothered to step in and check on it?”

Johnny was pissed. Family…family was about the most important thing in the world to the Gent. Disrespecting one’s family was one of the quickest ways to get on his bad side. And his bad side was enforced by thugs, like me. I guess it was because Johnny never had a family, really. He was an orphan, and came up through the system a hard, bitter man. But family…family was his soft spot. And his sore spot.

“I…I…I…” Henry stammered, but Johnny waved him to silence. The Gent reached up, rubbed the bridge of his nose, then sighed.

“Who’d you say the slumlord is that runs her tenement?”

“J-Jamison. Jacob Jamison.”

Johnny nodded. Jamison was a sleazebag, sure. He was also competition. He’d edged Johnny out of some prime turf, and Johnny didn’t forget things like that. He’d never had a legitimate reason to lay down the rough on the guy. Till now.

“Something like this, Henry…it’s a big thing. I mean, it’s your ma’s home, right? She don’t know anything but, right?”

Henry nodded.

“Ok. I’m going to make this right. Not for you, Henry, you miserable shit. But for your Ma. And then, you’re going to owe me. You and your brothers. You understand that? This is an open ended favor, Henry. You ask of me a great thing. I may ask great things of you in return.”

Henry’s eyes shot down to the floor. This was no small thing Johnny was asking. If Henry agreed, he’d be owned. Obligated. He wouldn’t have a choice, unless he wanted hell to come up and visit him personally.

“I understand,” he said softly. Johnny nodded, dismissed him. The room was quiet.

“You know I’m not happy with you, Pinky,” he said softly. I almost winced. It’s when Johnny talks soft that bad things get done. “I asked you to do one thing, one fucking thing, Pinky. One little trial. You fucked it up, bad. Cost me a lot of money.”

I said nothing. I’m not saying I wasn’t scared. Only a fucking idiot isn’t scared when the Gent gets quiet. But I’d be damned if I was going to go down like a blubbering Henry.

“This Jamison guy, you know him?”

I shrugged.

“Heard of him.”

Johnny turned, looking at me. Cold. An auditor looking at an asset.

“I want you to take care of this for me, Pinky. I want you to make sure Jamison understands that Mrs. Pauley is to be relieved of her outstanding debt, and restored to her residence. Punctuate the point, with your fists. You aren’t getting paid for this. You owe me. I don’t like being second guessed, no matter what the cause. If we didn’t have history, I’d have had you shot. You need to make amends. This is a start.”

I gulped. Couldn’t help it.

“Sure thing, Johnny.”

I headed for the door.

“And Pinky?”

I paused.

“Make sure he feels the message for a long time.”

I nodded, went out the door.

Poor Jamison. He was about to learn just how protective an old neighborhood could be.

“To Heed the Call” – response to Turn-a-trope #3! #woegttt

On time this week is my entry to last week’s Turn-a-trope challenge: “Resigned to the Call”

Did you take part in the Turn-a-trope challenge? Reply with a link to your story in the comments below!

Just under a thousand words, here is, “To Heed the Call.”

“You don’t want me for this.”

Galyon sighed, his lips a tight line of resolve.

“We have no choice,” Galyon rumbled, his voice deep and graveled and as scarred as his body. “There is no one else who can face the coming threat of Eldinia and her minions. Already, they overrun the outer territories. Soon, they will reach the Realm.”

Hethian stared into his cup, swirling the dregs that remained slowly, thinking. He was a hard man, and his visage showed it. Sharp angles creased his face, hard muscles worked beneath his thin tunic. Unconsciously, he rolled the shoulder of his sword arm, feeling it crack and pop. He was getting too old, too worn, to be the hero.

“I say again,” Hethian muttered, “That you don’t want me for this. Are there no others you can ask?”

“Who remains?” Galyon asked, desperation causing his grumble to crack. “All our greatest warriors are gone. Dead from previous campaigns, or lost to mad adventures. There are none, Hethian, to heed the call of the King Felrick. Will you deny it as well?”

Hethian’s eyes burned, narrowed. He stood, and even Galyon, no stranger to combat, gasped. Hethian was a giant of a man, towering at least two heads above even the tallest man Galyon had ever known. The mass of angry muscle stalked towards a trunk at the end of the room. He flipped the lid, gazed inside a moment, then reached down. Gently, almost as if cradling a child, he raised a long package wrapped in old blankets. He unfolded a corner, and looked at the gleaming steel within. The blade caught the fire within his eye, and glinted. A very slight smile formed on the warrior’s face.

Galyon did not care nor question why Hethian had hung up his sword. The wars had been hard, the losses great on both sides. He knew only that the great warrior had returned to the capital, walked up to the king, and resigned his commission, forfeiting all titles and rewards his service had granted him. He was stripped of all; land, uniform, titles. The king, though, granted him his sword. The war had been hell, yes. King Felrick understood that, and though law may require the rest, the king could still grant him the right to bear arms.

“When have I ever denied the call of the king?” Hethian said, almost in a whisper. The blanket fell away, revealing the massive blade beneath. Hethian slung it over his back, adjusting the leather belts that secured it to his heavily muscled torso.

“Very well. You have asked me. I have tried to deny you, but you will not have it. I will go and meet Eldinia on the field.”

Galyon breathed a sigh of relief.

***

The kingdom was shattered, the forces of King Falrick, routed. Galyon, his face bloodied, his body weak from wounds deep and soon, deadly, lay propped near the throne. Falrick himself lay beside it, his eyes staring emptily towards the ceiling.

Eldinia approached. She wore no armour, no protections. He clothes, cut scandalously, hugged her curvy frame and swayed as she walked. In the distance, the sounds of screams and clashing swords grew less and less vivid. The battle would be over soon, entirely. The kingdom was lost. Behind her, a heavily armoured warrior kept step.

She paused, looking down at Falrick, and for a moment, Galyon saw a hint of sadness fleet across her face. It made his stomach churn. Don’t, he thought. Don’t pity him.

She turned, as if she had heard his very thoughts.

“Ah, you must be the noble Galyon. Seneschal to the King, steward of his hall.”

She looked about, gestured to the bodies fallen within.

“I fear we’ve made a bit of a mess…but do not worry. I do not think your position will last much longer.”

“Shut your mouth, witch!” Galyon roared, summoning the last of his reserves. “We have not fallen yet! Hethian remains! He will find you and avenge us, if nothing more! He will see your corpse rot beside our own!”

Her face softened. She kneeled, coming closer to the dying man.

“Sweet Galyon. Have you not heard?”

She gestured towards the armoured beast behind her. The man approached, his hands raising to unclasp the straps that held his helmet, his breastplate. As they fell away, Galyon sobbed. Hethian stood there, his face, stony.

“Hethian,” he sobbed, “Why? You were our greatest…”

The warrior held up a hand, stopping him.

“I was never yours,” he said, bluntly. “Never once. Did no one ever question how I survived when all other heroes fell? Did no one ever wonder why those who remained sought out dangerous quests from which they did not return? It was I, Galyon. I whispered in their ears about treasures to be found, powerful artifacts to save the realm. One by one, I ensured that every hero fell…till I alone remained.”

Hethian reached back, unstrapping his great sword.

“I did find pity for you. I tried to resign. Tried to remove myself from a position of power. But in the end, you came back to me. You begged me. You insisted that I must fulfill my destiny.”

The sword hissed softly as it slid from the metal rings that bound it.

“I tried to resist, Galyon. I tried to back out. You brought this. You brought me.”

The sword swung. The seneschal, to his credit, did not make a sound. Hethian dropped the heavy blade, and turned.

“It is over, my love,” he said, sorrow heavy in his voice. “The kingdom is yours.”

Eldinia smiled, took his face into her hands, and kissed him.

“Rider from the Storm” – Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge: The Phoenix

It’s that time again folks, from the talented and ever terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes another weekly challenge. I decided that this time I would continue the story from last week’s attempt, as I like the world I was building there and this prompt gave me a perfect excuse to revisit it.  Hope you enjoy another slice of Li Drevin’s life…

“Li Drevin?”

I ignored the woman asking my identity and continued loading the limited storage space on Harley, my warp-bike. I spared a glance her direction, saw the uniform, and thanked the ancestors I’d chosen not to respond. It didn’t matter. She saw my glance, and her face took on a hard glare.

“It’s no use ignoring me. I was confirming your identity as a matter of civility, Mr. Drevin, but I know it already. I’ve come to bring you back to the Congress. They weren’t done with their questions.”

“What’s more to ask, Lieutenant…”

I glanced briefly at her chest. Strictly professionally, I assure you.

“…Anders? I’ve told them what I came to tell them. I’ve warned them of what’s coming, and how quick it’s doing so. Now I am going to jump on my bike, hit the black, and get my way to the other side of the galaxy, quick as I can. I don’t have time for political bullshit.”

None of us do, I thought.

“And what then?” she asked, crossing her arms, “If these things – what did you call them? Phoenix? Phoenixes? Phoeni? What is the plural for them?”

I hadn’t named them. I was just hired help, out on the galactic rim, that happened to be on the planet where they were found and knew the scientist who named them. Gracie Wu. Poor girl. She’d called them Phoenix when she’d found their ancient, long-buried ship during a geological survey. Their bodies, desiccated and lifeless, revived with exposure to the light of that system’s star. As they revived, they emitted brilliant flashes of bioluminescence.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Gracie had said.

That was just over three cycles ago. Gracie was dead, now, along with nearly everyone else on that world.

“Phoenix,” I grumbled, “The plural is just Phoenix, like fish and deer. As for what I’ll do then…”

I sighed. What would I do then? The Phoenix, at first, seemed benign. Almost plantlike in their forms, their limbs like tendrils, roots, off shoots of pulpy, vegetative bodies. Then they began to move. To walk, or writhe, or slither, or whatever the fuck it is one does on tendrils.

Then they began to fly.

That was the first sign that something was wrong. When the first one took to the air, hovering, much to the misplaced delight of the people watching. Then it struck. Fast as lighting. A tendril drilled deep into the heart of the lady who’d brought it back to life. It consumed her from the inside out, shriveling her flesh till it looked like the things she’d pulled from the ground. And then…then her flesh began to writhe, to wiggle in the sun. To reform, to expand, to move on its own power. Hot light burst from her, and she stood. Not Gracie. The thing that wore her body, her face, but not Gracie.

The planet was overwhelmed in hours.

I’m fast, damned fast. Not just on a warp bike, but on foot. Always have been. I still don’t know quite how I’d gotten away but I had, and I wasn’t going to give them a second shot at me. So I’d go, far. Other side of the galaxy, and from there? A sleeper ship maybe? I know they were launching some outwards to the distant arms of another conglomeration of stars. I didn’t know.

All I did know was that a storm was coming. And I planned to ride ahead of it for as long as I could.

“Mr. Drevin, please come back to the Congress. I don’t want to have to use force.”

I turned back towards the young lieutenant, and saw the stun-rod in her hand.

Like I said, I’m fast. Damned fast. Her arm was already in motion, but I was a blur, stepping underneath and pushing her arm, helping momentum carry her swing too far and off balancing her. I placed one leg slightly behind her, and pushed, toppling her to the ground and snatching the stun-rod from her hand. She looked up at me in shock, her eyes focusing on the tags that hung from my neck, with their distinctive black and gold stripes. Her mouth hung agape.

“Drevin…you – you were at Lisborn?”

I felt the color drain from my face.

The Battle of Lisborn. The last great battle in a war of greed and power-grabbing. And attempt by a bunch of wealthy, power hungry fucks to break apart the Republic. It was at Lisborn that they’d used their ace card, the device they thought would make even the might of the Republic tremble. The Star Crusher. Tens of millions lost in a moment. A blink of an eye, the collapse of a star. Everyone in the system dead. Everyone but one.

I’m damned fast.

The only good thing that came out of Lisborn, myself included, was a sudden, crushing defeat of the separatists. They hadn’t counted on the Republic doing that, and the Star Crusher? They only had the one. Their bluff got called, and they folded faster than the star that Lisborn orbited.

The mood shifted. I reached out, helped Anders up, handed her back her stun-rod. I noted her face, as pale now as mine had been at the mention of Lisborn.

“Ancestors be merciful,” she breathed, her eyes welling with tears, “You aren’t lying. They’re coming.”

I nodded.

“What should we do? What can we do?”

I shrugged.

“Head for the far side of the galaxy,” I said, “Maybe catch a sleeper ship. Try to stay ahead of the storm.”

I paused just long enough to throw a leg over Harley. Anders didn’t do a thing to try and stop me.

“Stay ahead of the storm, and hope to the thousand hells that they can’t cross deep space.”

I pulled on my helmet, touched off the bike’s engines. I left her there, staring off into the black. Staring in the direction of the Phoenix, and the coming storm of fire.

Logical Consistency in an Illogical World…

As I mentioned in a previous post, I just recently finished reading a great book – “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch. I really enjoyed his writing and I have already purchased the next two books in the series. There is just tons to love in them, and I definitely recommend them to fans of fantasy and witty scoundrels alike.

That said, I do have a tendency, once I’ve read a book, to go back and reflect on what I liked and what I didn’t like. Usually, the things I didn’t like are things that came off as logical inconsistencies – that is, actions or events that don’t seem to make sense given the world they are set in. And while I definitely liked the book I read, there was one inconsistency that stood out to me, and bothered me just a bit through my reading it, and that one thing was the magic system. Beware, minor spoilers follow – if you like to read as an absolute “virgin” to the material, stop here and skip the next two paragraphs.

Still with me? Great! Here is basically what I found puzzling with the book: in the world that Lynch has created, magic is pretty rare. It is, in fact, practiced only by a very elite group of magi, a group that is fiercely protective of one another, insanely powerful, and in general, not to be crossed. One of the most powerful aspects of their magic is their ability to use a person’s name to manipulate them. This, of course, becomes a problem when a plot pivotal character (or two. Or three. Minor spoilers, remember? ;) ) has their name used in just this manner. While that seems to be a logical step in the story, it bugged me.

The thing is, these magi are well known throughout the world. Their powers are known, their fierceness is known, their unrelenting nature is known. It is no secret that a magi with your true name could do very bad things to you. And this is where the problem of logical consistency comes in. When you have a world where this is the truth, where it is known that true names have power and that magi of incredible strength can and will use that against you…why would anyone ever give out their true name? It just doesn’t make sense to me that *any* one would. True names would be a matter of great secrecy, something whispered in the ear of a baby at the time of their birth, in the presence of no one but their parents (or perhaps a priest). They would be something strange and long and unpronounceable. They would be guarded with more care than a king’s treasure room. They would then be given a “day name”, something that they go by and identify with, though it is not their true name. Who in their right minds would take the risk of using their actual name if they knew that it could be used to not just control their thoughts, but their very actions? The logical thing to do is to hide that name and let no one know it who doesn’t have to!

Spoilers over, you can read now! My point from above, without spoilers, is that fantastical powers and abilities need to have a logical effect within the world they exist in. This all comes back to world-building, really. It is perfectly fine and acceptable to have magic in a fantasy setting. It is perfectly fine and acceptable to have that magic take a certain form. It is also fine and admirable to give that form limitations. When you do so, though, make sure that you follow a form of logic that allows those powers and limitations to have an impact on the rest of your world.

For a not-as-yet published example of what I’m talking about, I am going to use the magic system in my current fantasy endeavor as an example. In my fantasy setting, magic is powered by darkness. Light is the bane of all things magical, and thus, practitioners of magic do so in as little light as possible. They are quite literally the Dark Arts. When I first started writing up the ideas behind my setting, I really didn’t think about the impact of that. I just thought it was a neat idea, and a fun play on the words “dark arts”. As I write, though, I found that certain scenes in my story just don’t make sense because of the rules I established for my magic system. When I wrote a scene where a magic user uses his abilities to manipulate a room full of people, I had him do so in a dark warehouse, where his powers were strong. It seemed like a good idea, because the people he was dealing with were outlaws and thieves, and what image fits them more than a shadowy warehouse filled with shady characters?

The problem, though, is that these outlaws and thieves live in a world where it is known that shadows have power, and that people can manipulate that power. In such a world, important business deals, no matter how criminal, are going to take place someplace light and sunny, with as few shadows as possible to influence them. Even the shadiest (pun intended) of thieves is going to know that you DON’T trust anyone in the dark. Even if their meetings have to take place at night, they are going to take place in a warehouse with blacked out windows but full of lanterns, so that they can remain concealed but protected from the wiles of a wicked magi. That would be logically consistent with the world they live in. That would make sense.

That said, you *can* write loopholes into such a system. In my case, there are certain casters who are “shadowbound” – that is, a being of shadow (for brevity’s sake, a demon) is bound to their inner soul. They can cast in full daylight where no other shadowcaster can, but at the cost of increasing the power of the shadow within them, a being that is both enslaved and enraged by its servitude to a mere mortal. Too much daylight casting, and a shadowbound will lose themselves to their shadow forever. And the process to become one is both insanely painful and typically deadly – less than one human in a hundred survives the process. This means shadowbound are incredibly rare, and restricted by countless laws throughout the kingdoms of the world.

That still doesn’t change the fact that my warehouse scene needs to have light, and lots of it. I’ve rewritten it so that it does. But I made the caster into a shadowbound, so that he can still manipulate the denizens of said warehouse without suspicion. This small change allows me to keep the intent of the scene without sacrificing logical consistency with the rules of the world.

So, there it is. What do you think? Does that all make sense? Do you agree with the need for logical consistency? Let me know!