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.

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“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.

“What the Heart Seeks” – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Doing The Subgenre Twist, Once Again

Another week, another interesting challenge form the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig!  This week, we had to choose two story genres at random, and mix them together into a single story of subgenre-melty-goodness in 2000 words or less. As usual, I used the random number generator/recorder at Invisible Castle to keep myself honest, and came up with an 18 and a 2 – a Noir Dystopia. Shiny!

I came two words shy of the goal with the following piece, “What the Heart Seeks.”  It was harder than I thought, inserting dystopian elements into a noir world. I ended up adding a touch of sci-fi to the mix, and shook it real hard. I hope the results tickle your tastebuds.

I knew she was trouble the moment she walked in the door. Her hair was long, loose, dark, falling over her shoulders like an avalanche of black curls. Her eyes, green as a piece of fine jade. Her lips, shockingly red and shockingly full. Her skin, lightly tanned, as if the sun had kissed her ever so gently. Her clothes so tight, I’d have sworn she was shaken up and poured into them. Every bit of her, head to toe, was a violation of the Morality Code. And frankly, I didn’t give a damn. I tossed out the garnish of taboo and drank her in like a drunk at an open bar.

“Mr. Monroe?”

I must have been staring too long, because her eyebrow raised, and she cocked a hand on one of those impossibly curvy hips. I went to speak, found my jaw was hanging slack, closed it. Rolled my head and shrugged.

“What’s it to you?” I said, trying to play disinterested, though I was sure I’d blown that hand already.

“I hear you’re a Seeker, Mr. Monroe. A good one.”

I put a toothpick into my mouth, gnawed on it. I wanted a cigarette, bad, but I was out of cards for them and though they were plentiful on the black market, getting caught sucking down on one without a ration stamp was more trouble than I wanted to get in. And no matter how tempting she looked, I didn’t know this dame. Best to play it safe.

“I have been known to find things, sure. For a price.”

“What kind of things?” she asked, sauntering closer.

“Things,” I shot back. I don’t like being interrogated.

“You ever find…people?”

I paused. My chewing stopped. I reached up and pulled the toothpick from my mouth, and spun it in my fingers. I knew what she was asking, and it could get me in a lot of trouble. Unlicensed use of meta-human abilities was punishable by…well, anything they damned well wanted to do. Still, there was something about her. I gave in.

“People are tough. Not like objects. They change too much, nothing solid to focus on. Besides, most the time, someone goes missing, it’s because they crossed the Greycoats.”

Outside, a shrill whistle sounded, followed by the sound of running, cries. Punctuated my point perfectly.

“Tough,” she said, almost a whisper as she leaned in real close, “but not impossible.”

I couldn’t help but get a whiff of her, of that sweet, unidentifiable but completely irresistible perfume. I can’t deny, it had an effect. Down below, I felt myself stir in ways both immoral and illegal. Damn…this dame was trouble. Why, oh why do I like trouble so much? Still, long as it had been, much as I may be driven by those illegal, animal desires…I don’t work for free.

“No. Not impossible, Miss…”

I paused. I hadn’t even thought to get her name. It’s like she pushed every single one of my buttons, just right. I felt a flush rise to my cheeks.

“Neris. Neris Molpe, Mr. Monroe,” she said, with a smile that could melt even the black heart of a stalwart Greycoat.

“Uh, you can call me Sam.”

“Alright…Sam. So…will you take the job?”

I almost said yes. Hell, if she had asked right then, I might of walked right up to a Grey Inquisitor and pissed on his boots. But there’s one thing that drives me more than even the most primal lust.

“First, there’s a matter of cost. Seeking’s risky business, and battin’ those eyes won’t pay the rent. Or the taxman. Or bribe the Inquisitors. I need to know what you’ve got to offer before I can say one way or the other.”

Her demeanor cooled slightly.

“Of course,” she said, and the chill from her lips could have frosted over glass. Oh well. So much for that fantasy. She reached into her bag, a nice, colorful thing that would have gotten her arrested in a less questionable part of town. Color incites passion, passion incited immorality. That’s what the loudspeakers said, anyway, wasn’t it? Her hand slid in, slid out, now carrying…

My jaw dropped. My heart pounded wildly beneath my wrinkled shirt and battered overcoat. I literally had to rub my eyes, to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. I even thought about pinching myself.

“Are those…”

“Reproduction licenses, Mr. Monroe. Two of them.”

She may well have said she held the contents of the Imperial treasury in her hands. Reproduction was highly, strictly regulated. It could take a couple a dozen years or more to get a license for a single child. Many who got them found that years of chemical libido inhibition also killed their ability to have children, but by some strange lack of oversight, the licenses were open. They weren’t bound to a particular name or couple. They were transferable. And very, very pricey.

I licked my lips. Didn’t want to seem to eager but I really couldn’t deny that I was. I rubbed my jaw, felt the stubble that had grown there.
“Alright, Ms. Molpe…”

“Neris, please.”

“Yeah. Alright Neris. You have yourself a Seeker.”

***

It’d been a long night. Miss Molpe…Neris…was hesitant on the details. Couldn’t blame her for that, though. These days, anyone could be a Greycoat. Even me.

We’d evaded three patrols so far, running through dark alleys and abandoned service tunnels, following the distinctive pull my mind felt towards the object of her desire. Every once in a while, the trail would start to dim, and I’d have to ask her for another detail to freshen the imprint. Like I’d said, humans are tough. Changing. Moods shift, and something that defined a person one moment might change the next.

It’s easier, of course, if the person in question has some sort of unchanging feature; a significant scar, a great hairy blemish, a tattoo…well, a tattoo would work if they hadn’t been outlawed by Imperial edict. Even then, though, the way a person views their own attributes can sway how well they can be Sought. Where I might see an angry red scar, the bearer might see a proud badge of heroism. The devil is in the details, they say.

And the devil was poking me, hard. I fingered the stiletto hidden in the sleeve of my trench coat, then sighed.

“I need something more,” I said, sucking on my teeth as I tried to pinpoint the fleeting tug of my Seeking. Neris leaned against the alley wall, trying to catch her breath. I guess we’d been moving a bit faster than she was prepared to go; hard to say. When I start Seeking, I tend to loose myself in the pursuit. She held up a hand. I nodded.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and furrowed her brow. It was clear that she was trying to find just the right detail out, that wouldn’t expose too much information but give me enough to give her a lead. A tingle of paranoia crept up my spine like a spider up a drainpipe, but with a shiver, I dismissed it. Paranoia was the norm these days, ever since the emperor dissolved the senate and handed power directly to the Inquisitors. As much as I might distrust her, she surely distrusted me.

“Can we rest a moment more?” she asked, opening her astonishingly jade eyes and batting her lashes. Those things had to be a mile long. I grunted, gave a nod. But something was nagging me, and I had to ask.

“Who are we tracking, Neris? Boyfriend? Relative?”

Her cheeks flushed the color of a cheap wine.

“No…nothing like that. He’s just…someone who…has something of mine.”

“A thief?”

She shrugged, looking away from my eyes. My jaw tightened, eyes narrowed.

And then she looked up at me again. Those eyes, those impossible eyes, gazed at me like she was drilling a hole in my soul and looking to strike gold. And damn if she didn’t.

“Please, Mr. Monroe…I can’t. I can’t talk about it more than that. Is it enough that he has something of mine? Can we work with that for now?”

I concentrated, felt the return of that familiar tug. Yes…that would work. I nodded, and we were off again, chasing the ghost of her little thief. Whoever he was.

***

We hunted most the night, when we finally came upon the end of the line. The tugging within me, the feeling I’d followed all night, released. Tension fled from me like water from a sieve. I felt my muscles loosen, relax.

“He’s here,” I told her, nodding towards the abandoned storage buildings across from us. “He’s inside one of them – sorry I can’t be more accurate, but this is as close as I can get with people.”

Neris nodded, and started to walk briskly towards the buildings, when that wave of paranoia hit me again. I reached out, stopped her.

“Wait. Something’s wrong.”

My eyes narrowed, searching, not Seeking. It was quiet. Too quiet. No sounds of whistles, no barking dogs. No signs that an Imperial patrol had been through here, no sign that they were coming. And where there are no signs of Imperials, there are almost always signs of crime. This place was clean. I pulled Neris back behind me, reached into my jacket, pulled my unlicensed revolver.

“It’s a trap,” I growled.

“I know,” she said, and I felt the cold, round touch of a barrel against the back of my neck. Every bit of me cringed. I’d been had. Hard.

“Your gun. Drop it.”

I considered, briefly, resisting. I’m no slouch when it comes to using a gat, and my impression thus far was that this dame wasn’t used to getting her hands dirty. Not this way at least. And then, the Greycoats came. A whole squad, swarming out from the storage buildings. I may have been able to take her, but my gun was at least a dozen rounds shy of taking the rest.

“Excellent work, Mrs. Molpe,” the lead Greycoat said. “We’ve been after this Seeker for some time now, but he has always proven too slippery a fish.”

Mrs. Molpe? Fuck me.

“Stop, Donovan,” she said, her voice cracking in what almost sounded like sorrow.

He slapped her, hard.

“That’s Captain Donovan, you dirty little Enticer.”

An Enticer? They sent an Enticer? It all began to make sense. The loose details, the feelings of paranoia, the way I set aside my usual distrust so easily. I looked at Donovan. Shit. He was the one I was Seeking the entire time.

I looked over my shoulder at the apparently married Neris Molpe, and sneered.

“Don’t,” she pleaded, “Don’t hate me, Sam. They have my husband. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Everyone has a choice, Neris.”

“Not true,” Donovan said pointing his gun at me menacingly, “You are out of them, Mr. Monroe.”

I smirked. Couldn’t help it. I  had a choice.

I lunged, and as I did, pulled the stiletto from my coat sleeve. Donovan’s eyes widened; guess he’d never had anyone resist before. He tried to bring his gun to bear, but I was on him to quick. I buried my blade in his throat. He gurgled, gasped, fell backwards.

I felt the first shot that hit me, but I didn’t feel the rest. My body became suddenly heavy, and I slipped to the ground. I heard Neris scream, and a moment later, felt her arms wrap around me, cradling my head.

“Sam! Oh, Sam…I’m sorry Sam!” she said, sobs wracking her body. I tried to move, couldn’t. Hurt.

“S’ok, dame. I made my choice.”

Coldness swept over me. My sight began to fail. I looked at her, at those impossibly green eyes, and smiled. Imagine that. Me, in the arms of a beautiful dame, her eyes heavy with tears for a cagey old Seeker. I tried to laugh, coughed blood instead.

There were worse ways to go.

“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.

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!