I had snow trolls in my original draft of The Wizard’s Sword, but took them out as they had no bearing on my story.
Although Middle Earth is full of monsters that are highly original, Tolkien also introduces us to some fairly familiar foes: the trolls from The Hobbit, for example, are quite traditional in the way they are depicted. Although it must be said, by the standards of most trolls in mythology and fantasy, the three encountered by Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit were mental giants. Bert, William and Tom spoke and understood the tongue of men and had an elementary, if faulty, knowledge of arithmetic. They were, none the less, turned to stone as a result of the quickness of wit of the wizard Gandalf and in this they conformed to myth and legend in more than one way. For the idea that trolls “must be underground before dawn, or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of” is an ancient one, with the god Odin playing the same trick…
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Would you believe that I have been living with my favourite created character, the erfin Mirrortac, for 28 years!? My original impression of the protagonist of this three volume series (Vol 3 still cooking!) has been of a heavily furred being with cat-like ears and a extensively ‘bearded’ face. Here is one of my rather amateur drawings of that look. Notice he has no neck to speak of and he does not have a tail. While he may have some cat-like features, I have strayed away from making him and his erfin kin into cat-people. This view of the erfins and Mirrortac remained the same for a number of years as I redrafted The Wizard’s Sword and finally started work on Three Stones of Destiny.
I wanted a design for the cover of TWS that was more professional than my efforts, so I engaged a local graphic artist, Heidi Counsell, to do up some designs featuring Mirrortac fighting a serpent (Snerk). Her interpretation was a little different, and she had added a tail initially. I had her remove the tail and went with this version that appears on the cover of my print version.
Later my daughter produced an anime version that departed further from the no-neck Mirrortac, but I found I could live with it and accepted that there could be various interpretations of the character.
When I wanted to publish Three Stones of Destiny, I engaged Irish graphic artist Michael Lenehan to create yet another version for the ebook. The print book cover focused on the antagonist Yidu but Michael had created auxiliary versions of Mirrortac that I used elsewhere.
Lately, I have been dabbling with Daz Studio to create morphs that approximate the character, and the nearest I could get with what I have in the software, was this latest offering. I would prefer to see more fur and less human, but am restricted by what I can afford and what the software offers. It is a good software system that enables people to create animations. I have made a small animation but am still learning to simply create still figures and settings. This figure was created from a human form that allowed morphing and reforming.
Got to love dragons. An enlightening look at Tolkien’s Smaug.
The dragon Smaug is in many ways the centrepiece of both The Hobbit book and film series – no other character more often dominates covers, calendars and promotional art related to the story. It is no accident that a dragon plays such a prominent role in one of J R R Tolkien’s very first works of fiction – he did, after all, once famously say: “I desired dragons with a profound desire”. For Tolkien’s taste, however, there were too few dragons in ancient literature, indeed by his count only three – the Miðgarðsorm or ‘Worm of Middle-earth’ which was to destroy the god Thor at Ragnarök, the Norse apocalypse; the dragon which the Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf fights and kills at the cost of his own life; and Fafnir, who is killed by the Norse hero Sigurd. There are elements of all three of these mythological dragons in Smaug, as well as some entirely of Tolkien’s…
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Good background material to base fantasy stories on.
In the beginning there were only native forests and wasteland. The Aesirs, one main group of Norse gods, cleared places to stay, both for themselves and the humans. They named the human’s home Midgard – because it is placed in the middle of the world. And in the middle of Midgard – so that the humans should not feel lonely and abandoned – the gods built a place for themselves: Asgard.
Asgard is a huge castle surrounded by thick walls. To get there you have to ride over the rainbow Bifrost. Strong defenses were built around Midgard as protection against the wild and unknown outside where dark and sinister forces are raging. There – in Utgard and Jotunheim – giants and trolls live. Everything is arranged like tree-rings. And furthest out, in…
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Easter is now a time for Christians to recall the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (not his surname), but our celebration of the event today is a combination of the Christian and pagan beliefs and mythology. The name Easter itself derives from the pagan goddess Eostre of old English times, and the word is said to derive from Germanic Austron, meaning Dawn. And this further derives from Indo-European for ‘to shine‘. This is no accident, as the Christian missionaries found it the best way for pagans to accept a new faith is to supplant a pagan celebration with a similar connotation. Jesus’s resurrection is a defeat of death and a new beginning for humanity, in other words, a dawning of a new covenant in Christian terms.
The idea of the Easter bunny that lays eggs doesn’t make sense these days, but a journey into the past clears up the mystery somewhat. The bunny also has its origins with the goddess Eostre who is closely associated with the hare (not rabbits). The celebration for Eostre is in the spring when life is renewing. Both the hare and eggs are associated with fertility and new life. Again, early missionaries adapted the idea of the hare and the eggs to the Christian Easter celebration. There are a number of other theories to the origin of the Easter bunny and coloured eggs that may have also influenced the tradition, but it is my opinion that the adaptation of the pagan feast is the most plausible. For example, Jews — who were the first to become Christians — had to abstain from eggs during the period of Lent preceding Easter. They roasted the eggs to preserve them during this time, then at Easter broke their fast from eggs with a celebration. However, it is interesting to note that modern Christians (especially Catholics) abstain from meat during Fridays in Lent (at least on Good Friday) but will eat eggs instead, or fish.
Whatever your belief or interest in Easter, I extend to you best wishes. Take care on the roads and enjoy the celebration.
In fantasy there is no real history, of course, but in order to give things some background to how they came to be the way they are, it is important to create some history. This was important, especially for my second book, as all of Mirrortac’s other lives were as individuals from ancestral races, going back to the original tribal ancestor that he meets in Three Stones of Destiny — the Roznogh. The planet in which all of the first book takes place is Mareos, which has nine orbits of its moon, Mogog, in a single Mareos year. Let us now explore the ancestral history that finally leads to the erfins living in their valley of Eol, effectively isolating them from all their remaining ancestors.
The ROZNOGH we already know in Three Stones of Destiny, live in clans in the tundra lands of Yidrogh in the far north of Mareos. The clans consist of clan elders, maja-taks, who are sacred spell makers, and the hefty hyfnuks who are responsible for collecting the hyfnu weed and killing animals for food. There are also the regular roznogh people.
In the 9000th moon of their history, there is an extremely cold period when the Great Viyu (numbness) brings heavy snow falls. The roznogh survive by living near an area of hot springs.
The Stone Wall of Viyu (Glacier) comes in the 9010th moon, dividing the land of Yidrogh. Some tribes are caught on the southern side of Yidrogh, fleeing to warmer lands to the south.
The glacier retreats on the 11,800th moon, but by this time the southern tribes have formed into the UZDREE.
12,007th moon: The maja-tak seek more freedom to exercise their spellcraft, challenging clan elders. The maja-tak seize power from the clan elders who are exiled along with a group of loyal followers. The power play continues between the maja-tak spell casters, forcing the division into two factions — the URDAN and the MADREE clans. Skirmishes break out between the Urdin and Madree but the Madree gain control, forming a powerful ruling clan that reigns for many moons.
13,851st moon: The Monsters-of-the-Deep-Earth (earthquakes) create great destruction in the land, swallowing villages and spitting fire out of the volcanic mountains. The Madree flee the great under-gods of fire, and escape south across a narrow neck of land which is swallowed up by the angry gods of the Great Waters. Plumer-Ra and the other Islands of the Meretees are formed at this time.
13,860th moon: The Madree have been scattered into groups all over the southern lands and each settles to form new clans — RADREE, HUGHWA, URTAK, MADIN and ERFIN.
13,900th moon: Under the maja-tak spell casters, the clans thrive and expand their territories, exploring lands until clans encounter each other.
14,000th moon: Border skirmishes erupt as the power game begins anew between the five clans. Warriors are trained and their short swords bound by various spells to enhance their power over their enemies. Wooden swords give way to ones of metal with hilts adorned in precious stones.
14,005—16,154th moon: Battles rage between the five clans as each pits its might against each other. Finally, only two clans remain — the Madin and Erfins. The Madin are forced into the mountains where they maintain guerrilla style raids on outlying erfin villages.
16,155—17,000th moon: The Erfin empire reigns with battles continuing against the Madin mountain clans.
17,008: The hero warrior Merftac is born to the erfins of Fot. He grows up to lead a major offensive in the 17,146th moon against Madin mountain clans, forcing them to flee to the end of the earth where they are slaughtered on a precipitous mountain ridge and cast below into oblivion. The valley below the Mountain at the End of the Earth (Mateote) is so beautiful and richly endowed with nif-grass and fote fowl that Merftac convinces his maja-tak ruler to shift the people there in the place they name Eol. Merftac is dubbed Thane of Fotwood at the 17,164th moon for his service as a great warrior chief.
17,170: The erfin warriors grow restless, and many brawls break out. They start to challenge the authority of the maja-tak. Merftac realises that he must find a solution to their idleness.
17,180: Nite-wolves, attracted by the potential prey in the previously empty valley of Eol, grow in numbers in the woods east of Eol. Lorcs predate in the stream and lake to the west and south, resulting in the deaths of erfins. Merftac sets his warriors to work hunting nite-wolves and protecting villagers.
17,188: Alien demi-gods appear from beyond Mateote. They work powerful magic and tell of the wondrous worlds beyond the mountains thought to be the end of the earth. Nite-wolves retreat to deep within the woods while the demi-gods convince Merftac of the benefit of exploring these new worlds. Under their charm, Merftac and his warriors follow them over the mountain, promising to return once these new worlds are scouted. These same aliens also visit the Meretees people during this time period.
17,200: The maja-tak, realising their warriors would never return, seize the opportunity to assume supreme power without fear of challenge by restless warriors and their ‘charmed’ swords. They announce that Mateote is their god and warn erfins never to scale the great peak as oblivion awaits them on the other side. They brand the demi-gods as deceivers from the Netherworld who robbed them of their warriors.
17,210: The maja-tak form the priesthood of Mateote. The spell language of Maja is declared sacred and forbidden among the common erfin folk. In the ensuing years, the High Priests of Mateote establish firm control of Eol which becomes their prison as there are no warriors to kill the nite-wolves and slimy lorcs. The erfins settle into a subsistence lifestyle of harvesting nif-grass and herbs as well as raising the fote fowl for eggs and meat.
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.