Monthly Archives: March 2012
The erfin’s eyes flashed open and he gasped for air. With growing alarm he realised that something had really happened to him – he could not see, nor move nor cry out; the soft thread of the tree had grown over him in his sleep and he was trapped. He thought of the words used to tame the leeches but his mouth was gagged tight by the tree’s bark and he was unable to utter a sound. He felt the fabric of the tree reaching through his fur and attempting to digest him alive. The tree suddenly shuddered and the muffled thud of an axe could be heard being flung against the trunk. The tight thread of bark binding him loosened with each strike of the axe and the familiar grunts of the winged creatures could be heard nearby. As his hand was freed, Mirrortac tore at the bark and heard again an excited chorus of grunts as his rescuers snatched their first close glimpse of an erfin. He disentangled the bark from his body and stepped out to greet whatever intelligent creatures had freed him.
Standing before him were three tall beings, easily one and a half erfin-lengths high with faces like those of gibbons. They were each cloaked in large leathery wings of mottled green and one of them was holding a double-bladed axe made of stone that had been chiseled and honed to a fine sharp edge. The beings scrutinised him with as much surprise and suspicion as he did they, muttering to each other in grunts and gnashing motions of their teeth. Then one of them addressed him. He could not understand the strange sounds it made.
‘I do nought understand your words,’ he shrugged. ‘ My name be Mirrortac; I come from Eol beyond the mountain. I am grateful that you rescued me.’
There were more grunts and the beings exchanged perplexed grimaces. Then one stepped toward him and grabbed him with its bat-like fingers, tugging at his arm and motioning for him to follow. Mirrortac followed them into the forest a short distance before each of the beings began to climb the trunk of one of the giant trees.
Mirrortac hesitated as he looked up into the heights of the trunk and foliage above. ‘Up there?’ he said, pointing up into the branches.
The beings nodded and urged him to climb with them. Climbing trees was not an erfin-preferred activity but he knew the process for the times when an escape from a predator necessitated it. He clung to the trunk of the tree and pulled himself upwards, gingerly clawing his way behind the bat-beings who managed the climb as a matter of course. They scrabbled past vines and branches, higher and higher until they had reached a bough where the three beings now stood, waiting for the erfin. When he crawled onto the bough, one of the beings took wing, gliding across the dizzying space until it alighted on a neighbouring tree and awaited the others. Mirrortac glanced at them then stared at the yawning empty space above the cross matting of foliage and branches below. He gestured to them, anxious and alarmed.
‘I cannot do this!’ he shouted. ‘Look!’ he indicated his furry arms. ‘No wings!’ he waved his arms and wobbled precariously.
Mirrortac stopped at the threshold of the temple and bowed to Mateote which had all but disappeared under the thick cloud. He turned and bowed again, deeply from the waist, as he was entering the sacred preserve of the temple. A single marblelite altar stood in the centre of the floor and on top there was a hollow filled with a thin layer of ash. A sheaf of dried nif-grass was burning slowly, sending a steady stream of aromatic smoke up into the dome of the ceiling where it escaped through small gaps into the sky above. Benches were arranged in a circle around the altar but these were unoccupied except for one where someone was seated with his back to the erfin. He was wearing the priestly robe, which fell over a slim form, and his hair was strangely golden, falling in beautiful locks over his shoulders. Mirrortac stepped with soft reverence, taking care not to disturb the priest who was bowed in silent meditation. The erfin held the sword carefully now, resting in the palms of his outstretched hands, as he crept around the border of the temple interior. The priest raised his head and stood up, alerted by the presence of another in the holy place. Mirrortac stopped, not because he had disturbed a priest, but because he now realised something even more strange about him – he was much taller than any erfin and the hands he now revealed were hairless. The stranger turned, showing his face, which was also hairless and un-erfinlike. His skin was a pale alien sheen; his nose small and slightly pointed while his eyes were a brilliant hue of blue with round black pupils, not like the oblong pupils of erfins. Mirrortac immediately assumed a fighting stance, sword held firmly in the grip of his right hand.
‘Who are you? God or demon?’ he uttered, astounded.
‘Neither,’ the stranger answered, his voice fluid and unearthly. ‘I am Ni-Do, keeper to the Sword of Thaum and it falls upon me to explain your duty to the worlds against the spread of the coming age of darkness.’
Mirrortac stood stunned and perplexed. ‘Ni-Do? We have no such name under Mateote. What is this vexing talk of worlds and my duty to them? There is only this world, and it ends at the mountain of Mateote!’
Ni-Do’s eyes flared. ‘You foolish erfin! The darkness is already taking hold of your blessed Eol. You have not enough food to last the season of the White Veil and the nite-wolves grow bolder and hungrier with each day. If you stay in Eol and go on believing that there is no world across the great mountain, then you will all perish … but worse than this, all hope for the other worlds will perish with you.’
Mirrortac wished he could collapse but his legs were locked. He wanted to challenge the stranger but his strength had left him. He knew the danger to Eol was great but the stranger was confusing him.
‘You vex my spirit, weird one. What could an erfin such as I do against the powers of darkness? What use is an erfin and a sword?’ he pleaded.
The stranger’s expression softened but his voice remained firm. ‘My master comes from the world of Men but he is different to many men in that he is a wizard, a man of white magic, which in itself is tainted. He was captured alive by the powers of black magic, an evil sorcerer called Krak and the sorceress, Helok, who together created Hopocus, a place to entrap the souls of the dead. They also created an abyss into which all that is good, from all worlds, is gradually being absorbed, effectively spreading evil everywhere; an evil that will destroy you and all that exists. Once he realised that his magic would also be absorbed into the abyss, he devised this sword, which has the power to fight the spreading darkness at its edges, but cannot succeed in Hopocus until it has been given sacred power through the blessing of a holy person. White magic alone cannot conquer this evil and it needs one with great courage and a pure spirit to bring final victory.
‘This is where your duty is needed, Mirrortac. As an earth-spirit, I was able to escape Hopocus with my master’s sword and the gateway led me to your world. We needed a warrior’s madness in it firstly to enmesh it with courage then we had to wait until all my master’s magic had been absorbed into the abyss, signaling the time for the sword to appear in the woods where you found it and it laid claim to you. Your mission is to strike a path north until you reach the land of mists and waters where you will find the gateway to Hopocus, and your ultimate task – to cast the sword, which you will call Moonbeam, into the Well of Lost Memories where it will be empowered with its final sacred purpose. Remember this, I shall remind you when you forget.’
Here is an excerpt of the beginning of The Wizard’s Sword where Mirrortac first discovers the mysterious sword in the woods.
The woods were a forbidden place for erfins. The scent of the fir trees was pleasant as the erfin Mirrortac went in search of firewood for his hearth, his paw-like hands deftly picking out the dry twigs and branches as he kept a wary eye at the woodland deep for any danger. Beyond the woods were the steep slopes of Mateote – the Mountain At The End Of The Earth – its snow covered summit partly obscured in cloud. Erfins were afraid of the mountain and believed the oblivion of the Netherworld awaited anyone foolish enough to attempt to cross over. Even before one reached the foothills there were nite-wolves to contend with – vile smelling creatures with shaggy hair, fanged grins and cold yellow eyes.
Mirrortac stumbled and cursed the ground. He bent down to massage his sore toe and saw the faint sheen of metal winking up at him from amongst the litter of fir needles. Coming down into a squat he sifted away the litter with his fingers, exposing more of the metal. His eyes widened and he sighed with awe. Beneath his hands was a short sword of exquisite design; its hilt adorned with three stones of precious amber and its blade gleaming as though it had only been fashioned yesterday. Glancing into the dark of the wood, he picked it up and handled it with reverence. The sword was weighty yet balanced easily in his grip. He stood up and swung the blade through the air, feeling at once the clean gliding motion and a sense of strength and power. He tested it against the grey fur on his legs. Its cut was precise, deadly. Where had such a weapon come from, he thought. No erfin owned a sword though there were tarnished examples on the walls of the Halls-of-Eol and the High Halls of Mateote. The high priest was keeper of a ceremonial sword that was rarely used and was unlike this one, though it had been kept sharp and in good order. No, this was a warrior’s sword and countless seasons had passed since erfins had been feared warriors. All their enemies had been conquered and none remained to challenge the might of the fierce erfin warrior. The last to be conquered were the Madin, who were mountain people, but in the end, it was the mountain that brought their demise. Forced upwards, the Madin were trapped on the edge of the earth. The erfin warriors were remorseless in their pursuit and sent the last of the Madin warriors over the edge and into the great abyss beyond. Both peoples were from the same stock. The erfins were grey of fur and thickset with pointed cat-like ears and large eyes. The Madin’s fur was courser and they were slightly taller than their erfin cousins.
Now, gone were all the warriors. The last had died many moons ago but the stories of their conquests had been passed down from generation to generation until they had attained mythological status alongside the great god of the mountain and the gods of the day and night skies, Luma and Mogog.
Mirrortac brushed fragments of soil off the crevices in the hilt and looked up as his neighbour, Fillytac, approached from across a meadow of nif-grass. His was the portly figure of an elder erfin, his fur shaggier and exhibiting the silver tips of age. His eyebrows lifted theatrically above luminous green eyes and his voice betrayed surprise.
‘Mirrortac, what have you there? Is that a sword?’
The younger grinned. ‘Yea! I must have walked over it dozens of times. I can’t imagine how it has escaped my notice all these moons.’
Fillytac bounded the last few steps and stood staring at the sword while he regained his breath. The blade gleamed in the afternoon sunlight.
‘What will you do with it? Present it to the priests to display on the walls of the great hall?’
Mirrortac ran his fingers along the blade. ‘That would be the place for it,’ he said, uncertainly. ‘But I think I shall keep it for a few days; show it to Yenic and the child-fins. It is such a fine piece of work!’
Sometimes being forced to wait for the opportunity to do further work on a novel can be a very good thing. It gives the story the chance to ferment around in the grey matter, and that is certainly what is happening with me at the moment. Had I simply plunged straight into writing from the word go, I would have missed plot nuances that are now cogitating in my brain. Not that I want to wait too long, as the tale needs to be told, and the inertia builds up as more time passes.
As ideas come to me, I will often take down a few notes on my iPod to remind me of the idea so I can incorporate it when I get back to writing. Mind you, not all ideas will make the light of day. Some will be penned, then in the rewrite, completely eliminated. That’s the evolution of a novel. It’s a slow but rewarding process, and the most enjoyable part of writing. Because, once the last word is down, the hard work really begins.
Mythology has played a big part in my novel The Wizard’s Sword. I have drawn on myths from various sources and woven them into the character names, settings and background, without trying to be too obvious about it. If you look at Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, you will see he obviously used the Norse mythology of Middle Earth to build his incredible world of Hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, ents, wizards and the like. He is probably the inspiration for many, many fantasy writers, including myself. But I didn’t want to simply be another Tolkien clone, so I used mythologies from various places, and created my own.
The Werdstream in Mirrortac’s home valley of Eol is a play on the word ‘Wierd’ and its mythological connotations. The otherworldy visitor, Nido, is Odin spelt backwards, but really has little to do with the actual Odin. His part is small, but important. Later in the story, I mention the Utlontees, which is a veiled reference to the Atlanteans and the theories that they are a race from outer space. The planet in which Mirrortac lives, Mareos, is linked to Atlantis but loses that link when Atlantis sinks below the waves … all part of the ‘darkness’ spreading across the worlds from the evil sorceror and sorceress. Mareos is said to be in the place of the ‘belt of the warrior’, which alludes to Orion.
Of course, the wizard and the girl are Christians, or rather the girl is especially, bringing in another belief system for Mirrortac to consider. There are New Age elements as well, borne from the days when I researched the New Age movement. Concepts of meditation and abilities to go into trance, leave the body and meet with guiding spirits, all are explored in a playful manner in my book. I later toned down some aspects, as I wanted the book to be entertaining, although allegorical. And the second book will be more thematic rather than New Age or anything specific.
Nevertheless, the mythology is a rich source for fantasy writing for many writers, and of course, there are the age old conflicts with medieval style battles mixed with sci-fi aspects and exploration of alien thinking. What would an alien culture be like? What would they think of our culture? The latter will be explored when I reach the third and last book in the series.