Shadow Earth (VI) (2017)

Salmagundi: A heterogeneous mixture

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Welcome to Salmagundi, crossroads of the multiverse.  If you can’t find it here for sale, it doesn’t exist.  All worlds, all realms meet here.

—Garvindis the Great, self-proclaimed master of tourism, Salmagundi

 

Beyond these doors, two things will happen.  First, you will take an oath to defend Salmagundi and its laws with your life.  This oath is taken before all the gods, so do not take it lightly.  If you feel the slightest doubt about devoting your life to the Order, turn away now.

<pause to let people leave>

Second, you will approach Chaplain Thurian and draw a stone from her bag.  This stone will guide your training.  Each has one of four divine sigils.  Among civilians, they say magic has many branches.  We don’t have that luxury.  We only care about: communicators, healers, scryers, and warriors.  The gods will tell us your talents and place through the stones.

—Marec Hassan, Training Director, Bronze Guard, Salmagundi


 

Many centuries ago, visitors arrived from a distant land.  They were dismayed by the rule of the dragon lords.  Thus, they taught the secrets of sorcery to those outside the Magisterium, including knowledge the dragon lords forbid.  In time, the sorcerers trained by the strangers built three towers to which they anchored powerful spells that enclosed and shielded the land.  This became a haven for the people under the reign to a family chosen by the sorcerers, who knew they would be too busy to govern.  The new land attracted priests worshiping the gods of the First Men, hunted by the dragon lords.  the gods granted knowledge of the divine language to their priests, who sanctified the ruling family and supported the sorcerers’ efforts.

—from The Chronicle of Thyure, Dragonland

Shadow Earth (V) (2017)

Welcome to Paradise . . . Resort at the St. Kadesh Islands.  It is a magical place, unlike Tahiti.  Your every wish is our command, simply say the word.  Please follow the dock to the left and inform the attendants as to which island is your destination.

—Padma Hamdan, Paradise Resort

 

The St. Kadesh Islands are an anomaly.  They are not unique in this, but we have no information on them and attempts to scry the location continually fail.  Attempts to so much as locate the islands have been unsuccessful.  However, we are certain they exist, through significant anecdotal evidence.  Similar fruitless searches in the past, for other sites, have indicated the presence of powerful magical devices or beings.  Current recommendation is to take a hands off approach, but passively monitor any information that comes to our attention.

—Septimus Gottwald, intelligence report to the Demjan Chantry elders, NYC

Shadow Earth (IV) (2017)

Son, you do not want to mess with a dragon. Caught one, oh, ‘bout the time Sumer was building its walls, I guess. This was up around, I suppose it’s Kiev now. Massive bastard it was. Three, no five, heads, each one worse than the last. All of ‘em breathin’ mist cold enough to freeze steel. Not that we had steel back then, most of us had bronze. Took him down, but lost half my people doing it. Damn things were forces of nature. Pray we never see another of those scaly bastards in this world ever again.

—Veris, in Berlin (claimed to be one of the first moroi)

 

You might think that in this era of smart phones and security cameras, concealment would be more difficult than ever. However, the opposite has been our experience. Between the explosion of conspiracy theorists on the internet, confirmation bias, and the human mind’s incredible ability to protect itself from anything that challenges its worldview, skeptics are on the rise. Two centuries ago, if you said your neighbor was a witch, there’d be a trial the next day with dozens of witnesses to witchcraft turning out. Post a video of a man flying unassisted by the Statue of Liberty today and within an hour you’ll have thousands of people commenting that they can “see the wires” or critiquing the poor editing quality of the effects.

—Jeri Mayweather, Galliard Chantry, NYC

Shadow Earth (III) (2017)

When the earth was made, the gods soon grew bored and sought an outlet for their creativity. They fashioned the first race of beings, known as immortals, as their deathless companions to walk creation at their side. These nine beings ushered in the Age of Immortals, for all the land was theirs.

In time, the immortals grew strong and proud of their abilities and tested themselves. In their early, young, hubris, some decided to make companions for themselves, as the gods had made them. Their creations were imperfect. They were immortal, like their creators, but fed on beasts, early mortals (an experiment of some gods), and each other to maintain their immortality. The result was an age of darkness and fear for mortals, the Age of Shadows. Many immortals fought against the new creatures, thus beginning a war that has continued through the ages. The immortals, though, were too few in number, only nine after all, and the gods refused to intervene.

Seeking aid to end the terrible mistake that was the shadows, the immortals continued experimenting with creation. They modified several beasts and men, resulting in five magical races and the first of the shifters. Even these allies were not enough. The shadows bred faster than the new races. In order to increase their numbers, the six species began breeding with the rapid spawning humans. The result was the kinfolk and the Age of Sorcery. During this age, the immortals vanished from the world. However, with their allies, the six races fought the shadows to a standstill. Then, believing their work done at great cost, the few survivors of the five magic races left the world to seek their immortal creators.

The sorcerers governed humanity and the shifters their own lands, for a time. But, humans chafed under their dominion after centuries. Revolts occurred, rebellions, and deaths. Outnumbered, the sorcerers and shifters faded into the background, quietly protecting humanity from their shadow enemies. Thus was ushered in the Age of Man, a lesser age in many ways, but one in which humans believe they shape their own destiny.

—Adjeret’s Four Ages of the World (translated into prose from the original draconic verse)


 The ancient gods who held sway so long ago their names have been forgotten created nine immortal beings to be their companions. It is from these beings—Amurta, Besanna, Erenungal, Hahepri, Kisheb, Nabis, Ningoth, Sham’at, and Sogal—that the magical races are descended. Each of the nine mingled their bloodline with humanity, a later creation of the gods, producing dragon, fae, giant, goblin, moroi, shifter, shtriga, and troll. The ninth, the demons, became extinct before their line could extend to survive the ages.

–from Byron Wycliffe’s “On the Origins of Magic” (1831)

Shadow Earth (II) (2017)

Code of Osane

Strength through control.

Growth through unity.

Protection through concealment.

Power through influence.

Influence through patience.

—from Osane Volysovich, founder of Scholomance

 

Sorcery is . . . a sort of paradox. It is simultaneously simple and complex. We know at its basic level sorcery is willpower properly applied to energy. Thus, grab energy, shape it, release. Nothing could be simpler, right? Wrong. If it appears easy, it probably isn’t; if it appears difficult, it probably is. It takes years to master, so the ease you see in your instructors will not come overnight.

—Jessica LeFrancis, Headmaster of Zatenai Academy, to incoming students

 

You are imitheos, from the Greek for “demi” and “god”. But, your ancestors were not gods, they were immortals who mingled with humans. We can’t tell which immortal line you’re from, frankly it doesn’t matter, that was millennia ago. What does matter is that you have access to powers and we have a duty: to teach you to control those powers and to protect this world from the rest of the realms.

—Marcus, to newly identified imitheos

 

You can have any weapon you want to train with, even any gun you want. But, some advice. The shadows, most magical creatures, shifters . . . they aren’t fazed by a bullet, they won’t even bat an eye. Hell, bullets only make the shifters mad. You’re better off with a sword or bow.

—William Isaak, self-defense instructor, Zatenai Academy

Shadow Earth (I) (2017)

Just some little pieces I’ve been putting together for a massive (160+ pages of moderately detailed notes) urban fantasy multiverse worldbuild.


When a priest sacrificed blood on the pagan altar to protect the land, when a king spilt his seed on the ground to bring fertility, these were not the empty rituals of primitives. They were echoes, among mundane humans, of the oldest, some say strongest, of the primal magics. Even in these refined and advanced days of enlightenment and scientific understanding on the sorcerous arts, the eldest magics retain a certain value, raw and wild as they are.

—Tanith, from A Practical History of Sorcery

 

Contrary to popular beliefs, the so-called First Cities have no basis in reality. Rather, they are symbolic representations of socio-cultural ideals held by the earliest of magical persons and societies, utopic visions for stories that reinforced social mores.

—Michael Vortigern, from Treatise on the Legendarium

 

If humanity discovered the truth about the world, they would try to exterminate both us and the shadows. They would get in our way and cause us to fail in our duty. They would do this out of, a not unreasonable, fear. It’s happened before, although not on a large enough scale to completely destroy us—Alexandria, the Inquisition—but if it recurred today, all would be lost.

—Nefre Hersi, on the necessity of continuing the Concealment Doctrine

 

There is a war in the grey spaces. It has been waged for millennia. Both sides claim righteousness, claim their side has altruism and seeks to protect the unwitting humans from the other side. Both sides lie. After hundreds of generations, they simply fight to fight. To beat the other side at any cost. I know because I spent a century fighting for one side, then the other. And I was good at it. I hunted shadows, I hunted shifters and kinfolk. I bought the shite both sides sold. Until I no longer could.

— Taren the Apostate, from The Chronicle of Taren the Apostate

Species in Fantasy and Urban Fantasy (pt. 5; Last Part)

Halflings

Diminutive, often chubby or rotund, pastoral humanoids, halflings don’t appear in a lot of “mainstream” fantasy or urban fantasy. They could be adapted to either, though, or even played with by basing them off a wide variety of “little people” that appear in global folklore.

Tolkien first created the halfling, as Hobbits, possible basing them loosely on the “Little People” of English folklore. They were a tough, pastoral folk excellent at concealment and enjoying “simple” lives. They were very much a sort of representation of Tolkien’s idealized pastoral English middle class.

Halflings mostly appear in RPG related fiction, tabletop games, and video games. They are hobbits under a different name due to copyright issues, but have essentially the same traits as Tolkien’s hobbits. Over the last few decades, some game (D&D, for instance) have introduced different varieties of halfling. One of the most notable variations is the Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman kender—kleptomaniacal halflings cloaked in an innocent demeanor and hyperactive chatter.

George Lucas and Ron Howard created their own variation for the movie Willow. Their Nelwyns are clearly similar to halflings, though they appear a bit darker, or more realistic, and much more like the Sackville-Bagginses than the idyllic Gamgees in many ways.

Merfolk

Merfolk are partly humanoid fish people that have had a variety of physical appearances. A classic version is a human top and fish bottom, as seen in mermaid tales. Others are entirely aquatic and fish-like in appearance, although with a humanoid top half (as in Sci-Fi’s show Sanctuary). Some herd sea creatures or cultivate sea plants. Most hunt sea animals and almost all use echolocation to some degree. Unfortunately, because of their aquatic nature, they can be difficult to work into human focused stories and worlds, although they do appear in some of the Dragonlance novels and many fantasy RPGs. Merfolk could be potentially active and interesting in a Venice-based fantasy city or urban fantasy story, living in lagoons and canals. They could even potentially work in a city with multiple decent sized rivers or a river delta.

Rowling introduces a settlement of merfolk in the Hogwarts lake, preserved there and safe. These merfolk are friendly to Dumbledore, who speaks mermish. They only appear a few times, though, notably for a Triwizard Tournament event and for Dumbledore’s funeral.

Minotaurs

The minotaur originates in Greek myth, where it was a bull-headed humanoid. That element of appearance has been retained, though there is debate about whether minotaurs should have human feet or bull feet. There are a host of other appearance elements and uses in modern fantasy and urban fantasy, but they all generally agree that minotaurs are taller than humans and have bull (or cow) horns. Most varieties have tails.

In the Greek myths, the minotaur was a unique being, a child of the Minoan queen Pasiphae and a bull meant as an offering to Poseidon. It was kept in the Labyrinth where it ate an annual sacrifice of humans. What it did between the Athenian tributes is unclear, but presumably Minos was exacting tribute from other cities as well.

Rick Riordan continues to hold with the classical sources with a unique Minotaur. His Minotaur is an axe or sword wielding beast bent on killing demigods.

The Dragonlance creators took the minotaur myth and spun it into an entire species of beings. Their minotaurs form an honorable warrior culture governed by the winner of arena combat. They are excellent sailors. Unfortunately, they often find themselves beholden to the forces of Takhisis (in the time of Huma and the War of the Lance).

Tonya Huff (The Enchantment Emporium) makes brief mention of minotaur cattle ranchers in central Canada. No other description appears, but presumably the minotaurs are a species of beings and they seem to be relatively inoffensive—as ranchers and there’s no worry that the protagonist’s grandmother appeared to be on good terms with them.

Nmphs

According to classical sources, nymphs are representatives of nature. They are typically described as all being female, sort of counterparts to satyrs & fauns. Many are tied to specific locations and able to exert some degree of control over their natural feature. As legends evolved, nymphs became tied to sexuality as well, which is not necessarily true of the mythic stage. In the early phase of their development, they were more focused on nature and roles as children of lesser gods.

For the Greeks (and Romans), there were many varieties of nymphs from meadows to trees, oaks to rivers, oceanic to the daughters of Atlas. They were always female and were often pursued by satyrs and gods alike.

Rick Riordan remains true to the classical sources, depicting his nymphs as the female counterparts to satyrs. In this form, they have a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the all male satyrs. Many of the nymphs serve and protect Camp Half-Blood, but there are exceptions who are tied to other parts of the world, such as Artemis’s nymphs.

Jaye Wells makes nymphs into a nature oriented sub-species of the Fae race. Only one, Vinca, is shown in detail. She exhibits power over plants, particularly enhancing and accelerating their growth, and hated cats as an ancestral enemy.