Thenigmas is not a planet you would like to visit on a holiday. Everything about the place is violent — earthquakes, volcanoes spewing ash and lava, and fierce tribes that are at war with each other. Mirrortac comes here through the portal connection to his home planet of Mareos, but it is not through his own volition. Nevertheless, he needs to be there as this is where the second Stone of Destiny, Darm, is hidden. This planet is so vast and complex that Mirrortac’s experience of it only touches on a few tribes in the central western sector. Thenigmas thus also features in another novel I am working on, but that is for later. I will discuss all the tribes and their lifestyles here:
NORTHERN TRIBES OF THE FOREST OF TREACHERY
Haks, Futs, Teks and Woks
All the woodland tribes are fiercely territorial but do not indulge in raids of other tribes. They wear animal skins for warmth against the cold seasons, and hunt with the use of bow and arrows. Each tribe has its own identifying arrow design and utilise various poisons to quickly disable the animal or man as the case may be. Food consists primarily of small and medium sized animals up to the size of a deer. Other foods include various herbs, roots and leafy plants; refreshments are from the juices of various plants and include an intoxicating drink made from fermented fruits of the forest. Almost without exception, all intruders are killed and eaten after they have been basted in herbs and roasted in hot ashes underground. Men and women are likewise long haired with hairy bodies and pale tan skin. They are as tall as an erfin (short) and of like build with flat noses. Men exhibit small beards but are the same height as the women. They are agile climbers and build raised huts made of slender tree stems and thatched pine needles. Tribes distinguish themselves by the style of hair which may be tied back in a specific manner.
TRIBES OF THE PLAINS
Zidites, Shrones and Bluves
Zidites: This tribe lives on the edge of the Slosh of Sour (see map above) and the Plain of Scorched Flesh, and ride the plain on a horse-like creature, the Parduk. They wear hide armoury and hunt the large herd animals of the plain with sickle-shaped weapons made of sharpened Mamorf bones which they use to cut the animal’s throat while riding alongside on their parduks. They can also use these as weapons against other tribes they may encounter on the plains. Competition for food animals against other tribes results in constant battles between the tribes. Other tribes-women are also kidnapped and taken as their own and vice-versa. Thatched grass huts are built in the village of Zid. Food is solely meat, including bones and innards, and warriors prize the heart of their victim — animal or man — which is eaten raw fresh after the kill. All Zidites have shaved crowns of their heads. This is a light tan skinned tribe. Fresh blood and water are the only drinks they partake of.
Shrones: This tribe lives farther west and up the coast alongside the plain. They also ride parduks and live in thatched grass huts at their home village of Shron. They wear animal hide armoury marked with the insignia of two parduk shoes crossed at their apexes and also a helm of cranium hide with inward curled horns. Their chief weapon is a wide-bladed bone dagger which they use in a thrusting action while leaping off the backs of parduks to kill their victims. The men are bearded with almost shoulder length hair. They eat the meat of animals but detest the flesh of their enemies, lest they be despoiled by inferior blood. They are also fishing people who build natural fish traps using the tide to advantage. They use reed canoes to cross over to the island of Woin where they invade the people there in an age-old rivalry going back many generations. They drink the milk of domesticated animals and have a liking for an intoxicating beverage made solely by the Woineks.
Bluves: These are a black-skinned race who inhabit the hot northern part of the plain at the foot of two volcanoes — Grorl and Somok. They wear metal breastplates and short leather skirts, hunting on foot. They use a range of metal weaponry forged at volcano fed furnaces. They have long ponytails stemming from otherwise bald heads, and are tall and lithe, with little body hair. They use spears to kill the animals of the plains but have wicked little daggers which they store in their ponytails, and can draw them swiftly to finish off an enemy. They are often at war with the Clunuks to the north of them who always try to steal their food, women, weapons and whatever they can get their hands on. They live in clay huts and eat the meat of animals as well as a kind of bread made by their women. They drink the blood of their victims as well as milk and a floury gruel like porridge.
Warriors of Ning, Huds and Clunuks
Clunuks: The Clunuks are a dark-skinned tribe who inhabit the hills of the Tor of Clun. They have long waxy black hair and wear headbands and spiked anklets. They armour themselves with sleeveless mail shirts with an undershirt and tailed into a skirt of light leather. They often hunt and raid under the cover of darkness, and are discreet and treacherous in their movements. They are notorious thieves, and will steal the enemy’s metal, including weapons and armour off those they have killed in battle, then smith the metal into their own weapons and armour. Their weapons include crossbows, swords and daggers. They inhabit homes made of layered stones transported from the nearby hills, and their food includes animals of the plain, various wild vegetables and wildfowl. They drink a variety of vegetable juices and a steamed leaf tea with a certain narcotic quality that promises to heighten the warrior rage.
Warriors of Ning: Perhaps the most feared tribe in Thenigmas because of their slave animals — the giant insectoid Gnax which they use to ride the skies from their homeland in the Hills of Ning in the far eastern quarters of the world, to swoop upon their enemy, the Huds, in the Hills of Crush. Generations of tribal hatred stand between the two tribes who battle on without end; their whole purpose bent on war. The women are left to hunt for food while the men go out to battle, returning only to recover from injury and gather more food supplies. Women hunt the giant creatures in the country north of the Hills of Ning and the volcano, Qaja, that provides the furnace fire for forging helms and the solid metal balls slung at the enemy with sling-shots made from bone and animal sinews. Male smiths operate the forges and also teach the young men to be warriors. These are a dark-skinned but hairy tribe who wear helms with slightly curved horns. They are loud and raucous, fight hard and play hard. Women are expected to be mated early, and to give birth to many sons and daughters, as both ensure a constant supply of warriors for battle where losses are great despite their aerial advantage. A number of domesticated animals are kept to provide milk and eggs; and vegetables are grown to save time in searching for food. They value the heavy mineral waters of nearby springs for drinking and also have a variety of juices.
Huds: This tribe lives in the Hills of Crush in the south and must battle on two fronts, but mainly against their most hated enemy, the Warriors of Ning. Their reply to the slung metal balls from their insectoid riding enemy is to use catapults armed with oil soaked stones set alight and shot at the gnax which are often severely burnt in flight, thus forced to ground where their Ning riders can be killed. The Huds also use the huge Mamorfs to pull their platforms constructed on rounded boulders which offer a vantage point for battle and to literally crush any enemies. The Huds use a variety of metal weapons, including sling-shots and spears. They are similar in appearance to the Warriors of Ning but go naked except for leather loin cloths, and instead of armour, use heavily studded metal shields to ward off shot. Their women collect a variety of water plants from Heathens Sunk in the north and will also hunt with spears for herd animals on the plain if there are none to be found in the hills. The women are also fierce warriors and can take care of themselves against men from other tribes wanting to have their own way with them. A particular bulb collected at Heathens Sunk has highly potent properties and is used as a smoke or in a narcotic drink.
TRIBES OF THE DEVOURING ISLES
Shrids, Ashes and Ihaytites
These closely related tribes are perhaps the most beautiful in appearance as their bodies are deeply tanned, slim but strong, and with little hair over their naked skin. They have multi-pronged spears for fishing and wear no clothes bar ornaments such as shell necklaces, metal earrings and circlets around arms and legs. They live on fish and fruits of the islands, and use outrigger canoes made out of carved out tree trunks. The tribes keep an uneasy peace with one another, killing any who cross the boundaries between their home island and the neighbouring ones. There are no raids but frequent skirmishes in the waters between the islands. Island chiefs can start a war if they feel their tribe has been compromised by the actions of individuals in other tribes. Rising populations strain at relations.
Skye is a construct of an alien who has assumed the throne of a god to the Roznoghs. He has used elaborate magic to create a landscape designed to thwart any attempts to enter and reach the crystal palace that he has built for himself. Firstly, before anyone can even enter Skye, they must know the ancient incantation required to open the stone gateway leading from the forest on its edge. Once that is achieved, the interlopers must climb up many steps and onto the plain of Skye where time has being slowed down to such an extent that the sun appears to stay rigid in the sky for what would normally be many days. A pathway leads through an orchard of fruit trees that seem to go on forever, and if followed, will exhaust the traveler without them getting any nearer their destination. The Pathway Forever is more than exhausting, but literally maddening. The traveler will begin to hear a piercing screech that deafens and debilitates. If the traveler deciphers the riddle of escaping the Pathway Forever, they enter what appears to be a lush and inviting landscape of lush grasslands with shrubs and streams running through it. The Fields of Skye may seem pleasant at first, but the traveler soon finds he is under attack by swarms of insects — flying and crawling — that will injure and kill if some escape is not found.
If somehow any traveler has managed to survive all these onslaughts and illusions, they will find that the landscape again changes as they detect pungent smells and a searing, burning plain that is impossible to cross on foot. Within the plain is a huge boulder upon which stands the castle of Wergaen which protects the first Stone of Destiny, Oashu. The only way across the plain is to be swallowed up by a huge creature called the Tordwin. This spiny animal has many tiny feet designed to withstand the immense heat of the plain, and will transport a traveler inside its stomach before spewing it out again at Wergaen. A stone stairway leads up the side of the boulder to the castle above where its three towers rise up, and two green flags stand limp atop the central tower. A portcullis guards the way into the castle where ghostly beings called web wraiths haunt the stairways.
On the other end of the plain is a mesa supporting the crystal palace where Yidu consults the master Werdstone. Tall bird-like beings, Sacred Chuffs, are at Yidu’s service, standing resolute among the rows of pillars leading up to the throne and the pedestal where the master Werdstone sits. Yidu can use the stone to tune into the smaller ‘chip’ of Werdstone that the daughter of the Werd carries with her. He can also travel to each of the other two Stones of Destiny on the planets of Thenigmas and Nerthule, as the links serve as portals across the immense distances of space. And finally, he can use the Werdstone as a communication device with his kin.
I did not create a map for this land but you can imagine a landscape similar to our Tundra, covered in snow for most of the year, and dotted with bogs. It is a twilight land that is plunged into darkness during its winter season or Season of the White Veil as the inhabitants, the Roznoghs, call it. They live in caverns under the snow referred to as holloks, and are divided into clans according to their location. The icy stream called the Bringer of Viyu (numbness) winds its way through the landscape. The roznoghs are distant ancestors of the erfins. Their food comprises mostly hyfnu weed from the bogs (Greevuns) and meat from the small furry Nimply-wiks, and the large carnivore, the Wooil, which has four eyes, huge shoulders and powerful front feet, sloping down to smaller hindquarters. The Wooil can tear a roznogh to pieces, but its meat is valued, and also its fine fur hide. The roznogh worship the Skymaster Yidu, who is a big part of the story in the second book Three Stones of Destiny. It is here that Mirrortac encounters the Werdstone — a much revered stone — and gets himself into a whole heap of trouble.
After a voyage across the northern seas of Mareos, Mirrortac lands on a desolate and strange beach from where he is transported into another dimension through the work of an ominous mist. The name of this astral “world” is Hopocus, where deception is the norm. He first encounters the Enchanted Blue Forest — a fir forest at the edge of a coastline where trees are blue, casting orange shadows, and birds fly upside down. A misted landscape leads from this forest to Fog Peak and the Castle of Hopocus that is inhabited by a sorcerer and sorceress, and their many prisoners, among them a wizard and his assistant.
Lying between the castle and the depths of Raven’s Chasm is the Wood of Forgetfulness where the souls of the dead roam in their eternal circles, having lost their minds and any sense of direction. The wood’s other denizens — deva-hogs — are creatures to avoid. Mirrortac’s mission is to cross these woods to reach the Well of Lost Memories, but how can he succeed if soon after entering the woods, he loses all memory of his purpose? How can he survive being attacked by the deva-hogs? Or joining the souls of the dead in their march of despair?
The flaming fires of Vulcan’s Moat further prevents any escape to a higher astral plane where things are a lot better for souls and those still in body such as the erfin and his friends.
After a rather dramatic exit from Petrosium, Mirrortac finds himself on a boat (flut) on a vast ocean and in the company of a silent crew of sea-like people — one group belonging to a race of island dwelling people calling themselves the Meretees. The silent seafarers are a subgroup known at the Serenetees who communicate with gestures and mimicry. They explore the vast oceans from the equitorial realms to lands of ice. The islands of the Meretees are located north-east of Petrosium and enjoy balmy tropical conditions with plentiful fruits and fish in the surrounding waters. The main island of Plumer-Ra (God’s Land of the Sea) is blessed with the forest of the Divine Green and the long extinct crater of a volcano (Zu-laire). Coral reefs (rufs) surround the island group and a massive pyramid is built on the eastern side of Plumer-Ra.
Three further subgroups inhabit the island — the Children of the Divine Green, the Ra-Finelles and the Astellites. The Children of the Divine Green inhabit the forest from which they take their name. This colourful subgroup wear green robes with garlands and tresses of vines and flowers. They are quite similar to our own hippies of the 1960s, preferring to live a simple lifestyle, collecting the fruits of the forest, and clay, wood and wool. They have a close spiritual bond with the forest, to the extent that they are often seen singing and talking to the trees and animals, and adopting transcendental meditation practices. They are also peaceful people who abhor violent behaviour.
The Ra-finelles are a male priestly subgroup whose temple and home is the Pyramid of Ra-Los and its surrounds. The white-robed sect rarely venture far from the pyramid, which exhibits some strange characteristics such as a time anomaly and a link to the planet Nerthule and a mysterious race of space travellers who are given godly status.
Perhaps the most enigmatic and subtly disturbing subgroup are the Astellites (A-stell-ar-tees) who are entirely female and are nocturnal. They live inside the crater of Zu-laire, and spend the nights studying the cosmos, utilising smooth concave stone arenas that they manipulate to magnify the night sky, identifying planets and stars as they pass over the Pool Stone “screens”. They are the most sombre of all the subgroups, preferring their own company, and only entertaining visitors if there is some knowledge to gain or exchange.
Mirrortac’s stay on the island of Plumer-Ra begins pleasantly enough, although he finds their ways a little concerning at first. Developments during his stay eventually result in his hasty and unplanned departure, but you will need to read the book to ascertain just what happens.
Before Mirrortac and his friend Fillytac reach Petrosium, they must cross the desert Wastes of Nug, which comprise shifting sands and unrelenting heat and sand storms. There are few creatures that can survive in this harsh environment, but these include the six-legged Colglom. It has no tail but has an elongate head with three diamond-shaped eyes and thin ears protruding up from its head. The Colglom has the ability to generate a cooling effect in the heat of the desert, feeding on insects (Sooz) present in the sands. Men would regard Petrosium with greedy eyes as the sands of the desert give way to gemstones and aureum mountains near the ocean simply called The Wet. The Dome of Petros is an aureum monolith which is about 4000 erfin-lengths across. The nearby Dome of Shadow is smaller and composed of obsidian and black opal. The Spire of Wa-ku juts up like a finger, 3000 erfin-lengths in high and 1000 in width. This is the sacred home of the Petros who are the strange inhabitants of this place.
The Petros are not an attractive people. They exhibit two large blue eyes, a horn, and are about the size of an erfin with orange scaly skin with a single foot muscle which they use to pull themselves through their underground passages and the sand and gemstone ground outside. They are androgenous, mating by joining the flower-like protuberance on their navels to each other. Egg-like growths proceed from these navels and drop off to hatch a new Petros. Their horns exhibit the dangerous power of using sound frequencies to kill their prey, but the same horns can also create loving sound frequencies.
The main prey in Petrosium is the Bilk — a hairy beast with six legs and huge shovel-like tusks. It feeds on sooz and the Pok Pok that inhabit the sands of Petrosium. The Pok Pok is a furless creature with a long nose for digging and seeking out insects.
Stretching along the cliffs facing The Wet is the Plain of Many Spires. These are spires of stone shaped in the form of ancient trees. The Wet is the ocean or endless lake as Mirrortac describes it, which extends to the horizon, and acts as yet another transition zone to a group of islands further north.
Exiled in the Dome of Shadow are the misshapen, deformed and “inferior” Petros of the Shadow. And with them is the underworld monster known as Beeblezub. It has six heads, six horns and is decidedly nasty. It is the nemesis of Wa-ku who is the shining master of Petrosium, and who appears to them as a man with curling golden hair, blue eyes, and orange toned skin. He is essentially their god of the sun, and he summons them once a year to pass on his wisdom to them. He appears via a spectacular light show from the Deep of the Shining Wet, which is a deep pool under the Spire of Wa-ku which contains the likeness of Wa-ku at the bottom. Its eyes are emeralds, and the lips composed of rubies. When sunlight strikes the pool, it phosphoresces into the moving image of Wa-ku. Wa-ku instructs the Petros to talk incessantly, describing all they do and giving long introductions.
Stone crystal clusters throughout the network of underground passages form pools of fresh water when exposed to the exterior, and this drips down into pools where the Petros can drink.
What a surprise! The Mountain at the End of the Earth is not at the end of the Earth. Beyond is the Faug Forest, but to an erfin it could well be the Netherworld. The forest is gigantic compared to the woodlands of Eol. It’s damp, hot and inhabited by all kinds of annoying creatures and plants — some quite dangerous. First in the dangerous category is the giant leech known as the gorkle that lives in the Bludstream. It will not only suck an erfin dry in minutes, but any attempt at chopping it into pieces only produces more gorkles. But its terrible reputation pales against the size and range of the much larger serpent called the snerk. These are green above and blue below, and their rattling sound can be heard far in the forest where its immense body slithers over the boughs of many trees. It visits the tree-top communities of the people who call this forest home — the faugs — and can consume several faugs in one venture. It is the most terrifying of all the creatures to the faugs who rarely descend to the ground.
The faugs themselves are winged like that of bats, and have bodies like gibbon monkeys. They do not fly, but rather glide from tree to tree or catch updrafts above the forest to travel greater distances. They eat fruits of the forest and a yellowish rodent called the tarmut. The tarmut lives on the ground and in the lower reaches of the trees, foraging for insects and other small creatures. The faugs also enjoy the fruit of merma, which is highly valued among faug folk for its many restorative qualities. The red berries can be eaten at night to restore energy while the juice is made into an invigorating and intoxicating beverage called merma-mead. The oil of the plant is made into Essence of Merma for healing wounds and soothing tired muscles. Merma is also an ingredient to create Essence of Yu, which has magical qualities.
The faugs enjoy playing games, and often use their archery skills to pop the amusing buzz-blop creatures that look like an upside-down fish flying in the air. Buzz-blops suck in air into their lung-like bodies while chasing insects, and will explode if they encounter a flame beetle. And it is this that the faugs use in one of their archery games.
One forest creature that is not a threat, but rather looked upon as a good luck sign is the cooit bird. This pink bird lives in isolated pockets of the forest, feeding on berries including the merma berry, which enhances its rainbow phosphorescence in the male’s fan-like tail. Its call is sweet and melodious, and once heard is never forgotten.
While the trees of this tropical forest are high enough, one tree stands higher than the others; in fact it is so high and so large that it rises above the clouds that permanently blanket this land. It is here in Greenfaug that the royal community lives within and around the Sacred Tree of Yu. The tree is said to embody the spirit of Yu who the faugs worship as their guardian deity. Even the snerks cannot reach up this far … in normal circumstances. The trunk of the tree contains the Sacred Chamber of Yu where the Prince and Princess take their thrones. Fresco reliefs of faug history are carved into the walls, and flowering vines and orchids drift down from an opening high in the chamber.
The faugs possess one other weapon — a slish axe — which is a double-bladed axe of quartz bound with twine and attached to a handle of Yu-wood or a lesser wood. It is usually carved with the design of a snerk or other creature, or the Yu-tree itself. All the carvings are done by the Daughters of Yu who live within the Greenfaug community.
I will mention one last plant — the thock — which is actually a tree with some dangerous attributes. This soft-barked light coloured tree is capable of absorbing any animal that lies against or near it. Thocks living at the edge of the forest also have the ability to move through and under the sands of the desert.
It all begins in a small valley called Eol which is at the base of three mountains – the highest and most revered being Mateote (Mountain at the end of the Earth). Its snow-capped peak is a misty place where the the predatory gakar birds command the sky, but in a dark time forces flocks of them to swoop down into Eol and attack the erfin villagers. The only deterrent Mirrortac can devise is to resort to the drastic measure of setting fire to the huts and escaping Eol. The Werd Stream flows out of a cave system and makes its way from the western edge of Mateote to the lake of the Waters of Three which is inhabited by blood-thirsty lorcs; slimy black creatures that will make a meal of any erfin or creature that ventures into the water. The erfins are essentially imprisoned in their valley, because of the mountain, the lake, and finally the woods where the ferocious nite-wolves dwell. The cat-like and furry erfins are further trapped by their superstition. They believe that the mountain is the end of the Earth, and that anyone who tries to go beyond it, will fall into the Netherworld, which is akin to Hell and Hades.
However, it is Mirrortac’s discovery of a mysterious sword in the woods that leads him to a meeting with an otherworldly stranger and a mission to go on a quest to find the source of the evil spreading across worlds. Like cultures elsewhere, the erfins worship their mountain god of Mateote, and have built a temple to serve that purpose. They are descendant from warriors who drove another tribe, the Madin, over the mountain, casting them over the cliffs into the Netherworld beyond. The sword arouses the ancient warrior rage in Mirrortac, reawakening an innate ability to wield weapons, and fight to survive.
The staple food of erfins comprises a poultry animal called fote, a herbal nifgrass and various small birds and creatures inhabiting the Eol wilds.
Of course, Mirrortac does take his people out of Eol and beyond the mountain to quite a different “world” to the fir forests and nifgrass flats of Eol. And that is the subject of my next post.
I have used some of my now extra spare time to work on The Gold Sarcophagus, and must admit it is quite a challenge. As the final in the Nine Worlds of Mirrortac series, TGS must up the ante on the previous two books, so it means some solid intense writing. I have completed the second chapter at this point, with more than 20,000 words all up down and backed up to the Cloud. There is no shortage of ideas but I have had to diverge from my favourite erfin characters to build up the drama and suspense involving the super race of people called the Uranians. I am again borrowing from mythologies; this time injecting some ancient Egyptian and Atlantis quasi-history around the rise of an ancient god who is actually a Uranian who was thought dead. The erfins’ mission to stop him is thwarted at every turn, and he succeeds in mesmerising much of the earth’s population. The Uranians also are thwarted in trying to stop him when a group of zealots sabotages their efforts to come to the rescue. Things get rather complex, and therefore I will be drawing on some of the masters of fantasy to assist me in my writing. Raymond Feist in his Magician and Empire series is experienced in dealing with the politics of alien races, himself most likely drawing on the politics of ancient societies in our history.
Now that I have joined the unemployment line (due to restructure in newspaper company), I am taking a little time to return to the writing of book three in the Nine Worlds series, The Gold Sarcophagus. This is also a chance for me to give you, the followers of my blog, some value for your investment in deciding to follow me. You will notice that I just posted a blog about the trailer Michael Lenehan has created for me. It is amazing that I, in Australia, can liaise with someone on the other side of the world, in Ireland, for our mutual benefit.
So, where is book three going? I am quite excited about this one, as it is the grand finale for the entire series, and I have a lot of ideas for producing what I hope will be a blockbuster story, with a lot of drama, twists, suspense and a few things for people to think about. Book 2 was much more racier than the highly descriptive first volume, while the third book I intend to fall somewhere between the two. The storyline in Gold Sarcophagus will take on a wider dimension as I involve the alien master race only hinted in The Wizard’s Sword, and brought into focus in Three Stones of Destiny. You will meet more of the alien master race, and finally get to meet the inhabitants of the last planet in the triad – the Nerthulians, who will suddenly become very familiar to you. The mission that set the erfin Mirrortac after the Three Stones of Destiny will continue as the odds are stacked even more against this unlikely hero, and his triplet children and partner who join him in Nerthule. The mission goes beyond Mirrortac to involve the alien master race, the Uranians, and the traitor who was assumed long dead but rises up to embrace more power than he ever held before.
I am just into Chapter 2 at this stage, or about 11,600 words. There is a long journey ahead yet … and reworking to do, but I will tease you from time to time with excerpts as I did with Three Stones.
Cheers for now. PS: I quickly designed the logo for the Uranians. What do you think?