There is something intriguing to me about keeping track of the context around a project that is itself simply the context of a thing. It is all very convoluted, but in the convolution there is clarity.

From the author...

Essentially, this blog is an opportunity for me to discuss the process of writing these stories from within the character of Matthus Sparrowblade. Forcing myself to think about why he would include this story, and what questions he would be having, helps keep me honest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

There is so much in these stories that I cannot adequately explain what is necessary in the prose itself. Each element is like the web of a spider, spinning away from the story into a labyrinth of cultural references, lore, and such. One common piece is the variety of ways people in those days tried to protect themselves from the Netherwild. There are many points of interest here, but one in particular is the strange ways that amulets against the Netherwild show the ambivalence of most common people to the conflict between the priests and the wizards. Certainly, in most cases, I would guess if pressed they would spout one allegience or another, depending on their geographic and politcal location, but when it came down to it, most commoners, frightened of and in danger from the otherworldly influences of the Wild and other supernatural forces, were wont to rely on any protection or combination of defenses they could. The following examples show this, among other interesting things:

  • Ancient and modern coins placed on withered dandelion petals--The first part of this amulet is pretty clear, an attempt to pay spirits for protection (though the combination of ancient and current coins is curious: by the time of this story, it was probably tradition, but it earlier times it was an acknowledgement of the irrelevence of time on demons), which is generally frowned on by the various priesthoods of the region, but the dandelion petals are themselves an appeal to the gods: because of their resilience and the difficulty in uprooting them, dandelions were considered sacred and representative of the presence of Midir. Clearly the adjudication of the commerce between commoner and spirit here was intended for the gods.
  • A bowl carved from honeycomb and filled with porridge--Another offering, though this time with a different purpose. In the southern ranges of the Tubalothes, porridge, especially maize porridge, was considered a distinctly mortal food, one which was deadly to demons and other Unreal, because, according the Madar myth, it was given specifically to mortals by the gods. By leaving the food offering a honeycomb, however, the giver was disguising the deadly gift in the hypnotic power of the honeycomb and likely calling on the support of the bees, who were commonly viewed as emissaries between mortals and spirits.
  • A cage wrought of aspen bark and wire with three beetles inside--This one is much clearer. Beetles were commonly associated with the god Kiron, whom many of the commonors in the part of the world paid devotion to because of their Madar heritage. The cage in this case is symbolic of the children of Kiron (the Madar) being kept safe and protected. The fact that it is made of aspen bark, a material used commonly by wizards because they saw it as an amalgam of the hair and fat elements, may or may not be coincidental. As a far as I can tell, there is nothing about the wizard use of aspen bark that is relevant in this case.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I came across this interesting bit as I was researching the legendary character Barek Union. At first, I didn't understand its significance to his own corpus, but now I do. It is fascinating, made more so by the fact that even now, even after all that has been revealed, there are some things still concealed behind the veil.

"All living creatures, whether in the hallowed marches, the mortal world, or the Stagnant Lands, are made up of the same material, save one. For all save this exception, the soul is a thing of pieces coming together on the most fundamental level to create a being. On the one hand is the flesh, the form, the body. Counter to this is the spirit, the specter, the ghost. Binding these two inconsistent materials is the creature's fundamental essence, its instinct. All creatures seem to succumb to this creation save one, the dragon.

"Sources as varied as ancient scriptures and modern wizards' notes suggest, no demand that the dragon is a creature unlike any other because it has no spirit, or rather, its spirit is indiscernable from its body. This of course speaks to their vast, legendary power. Clearly they are creatures from outside, from elsewhere."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I came across an interesting comment while preparing the manuscripts of "Surety." There was a note in the margins that read, "The character lives in the margins of his duty." I found this a fascinating analysis. The character Achim is, I think, like many of us. So much of what people see in us, define us as, or remember us for is simply us doing our duty. Duty is like a sick cow. We need to see to it. We can't afford to ignore it. Somehow, our livelihoods depend on it, and yet it draws us away from our lives on a whim. In a way, we all live in the margins of our lives. The text is our duty, the margins is where we live.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I've just received word that an old notebook of mine was recovered. I had lost it many years ago and considered it lost, but many are the miracles in this work. The news was wholly unexpected, but not unwelcome. Apparently, the book was discovered by some traveller in Tsumarya. It is perhaps even more amazing that he was able to locate me. I understand it is with a merchant of salt and other spices and should be here soon.

I am excited because this notebook contained much of my research about stories from the Grim's Rest area, including drafts of the story of Tamerlane and Eblis. Also, if I remember, there is a version of "Surety," which is one of my favorites, though it is somewhat grim itself. This is fortuitous news.

Friday, April 06, 2007

One of the things I've always found interesting in reviewing different tellings of the same stories is the disparity of information in some cases. Sometimes, it is simply the two different accounts correspond to the personalities of the two different tellers. This is fairly common and in same cases very illuminating.

On the other hand, sometimes in the information in the stories is just inaccurate, or imprecise. I have tried to maintain the integrity of these stories, even in my adaptations, because I think it is useful to see how the people of that time saw. Here is a small, but pertinent example.

In the story "Robes of the Flesh," a fair amount of energy was expended in explaining the origin of Barek Union. In the discussion of Asharoh, that terrible place is described as being a peninsula. In truth, it is an island, which is occasionally connected to the mainland by a land bridge when the tide is extremely low. The fact that the main source of this story refers to it as a peninsula shows the abject terror most people felt toward the place. In their minds, if it was ever connected by land, it was always connected by land. If there was any chance of contact with it, then in was an ever-present fear.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

For various reasons, I have decided to change the format of this notebook. An its original inception, it was about context, but I found that in reality, I was simply picking topics of interest to me and then expounding on them. Such topics exist elsewhere (like here), and so I have decided to change the focus, from notes written on books and scrolls used during my research, to the marginalia of the stories themselves. I did not compile a single element of the Empyrean Corpus without commenting on the process, both of writing and of the lore behind each work.

In that light, I found one note on an early piece the Corpus, called " A Wail out of Summer" with a question and then a later answer. The question was thus:

"One of the key defining factors that makes a being an angel or a demon is their relationship to time. I cannot clearly hear see the difference between the two. What is it?"

And the answer:
"An angel exists outside of time, though he or she can still perceive it. A demon, on the other hand, still exists within the inevitable pull of time, but they have chosen to no longer progress, which is the only true defense against the ravages of time. Thus demons, though not necessarily subject to the most obvious manifestations of time (i.e. aging, among others), they are buried by its influence, which stagnates them and forces them inward on themselves."

Monday, January 01, 2007

"Wizard: One who explores and utilizes mortal means to harness supernatural power. As with many terms in this lexicon, the word 'wizard' has shifted in meaning significantly since its original usage, as the original definition was consumed by popular misconception. The word 'wizard' in the Merchant's Tongue descends from an archaic Iskandran word, waesilt, which meant to assail or defy and was often associated with the word olodeg, or heretic.

"Historically, a wizard was one of the seven original cults that were formed at the death of the Thief. The members of these seven cults each agreed with the philosophies of the Thief concerning mortal power and indepenence over divine control, but as the Thief himself seems to have passed very little on to his followers, the methodology and scholarship of those who came after him varied significantly."

He deals briefly here with an historical point that is and was often ignored by scholars. Writings contemporary with the Thief strongly suggest that he had no interest in developing a "following" and that once he returned from the Empyrean corridors of heaven, he was mostly interested in using the power he supposedly found to protect himself from the wrath of Bezek and the other gods.