THE AENYA BESTIARY: AVIAN

 

Avian

The avian or “bird man” is a human subspecies, and can best be described as a cross between a human and a bird.

HISTORY: The origin of the avian race is unique to Aenya in that their development from proto-human into a winged/feathered species is due largely, in part, to culture, in an example of ‘controlled evolution.’ Beginning at about 10,000 to 9,000 BGM (Before the Greater Moon), early hominids from the Nimbos valley fled from the invading Septhera, ascending into the mountains. Those slow to follow were enslaved or eaten by predators, the most terrifying of which was the caw, a bird with a 60′ wingspan. The dreaded caw became a focus of proto-avian myth and history. It was once worshipped as a deity, and animal sacrifices were commonly proffered to abate its hunger. All the while, the proto-avian subsisted on a diet of fowl, as the chain of Nimbos Mountains housed a multitude of feathered species. As time passed, dozens of breeds were domesticated, including falcons, carrier pigeons and owls. Most notable was the giant ib, a timid, dove-like creature with a 12′ wingspan. The ib was used for travel, hunting, and evading predators. Not soon after, tales of hunters braving the caw’s nest spread to every tribe. While the proto-avian never managed to tame the greatest of aerial predators, its eggs, feathers and skeleton became prized possessions, and to be adorned in its plumage became a mark of status. The skulls of unborn and newly hatched caw were worn by kings and priests as masks. After less than a century, between 9,000 and 8000 BGM, the proto-avian joined wax and feathers to produce simple winged gliders, which could be used to descend the mountain quickly. Consequently, the proto-avian came to see themselves as children of godlike, winged beings, that aeons ago were cast down to grovel in the earth. It was, therefore, avian destiny to return home to the clouds, and achieving flight became a cultural obsession. Each generation came closer to this realization, as traits conducive to flight were actively fostered. These traits included longer arms, shorter legs, stronger torsos, and a shallow, tapering bone structure. As bio-technologies advanced, the proto-avian grew more sophisticated in this endeavor, manipulating their species at the level of the chromosome, until their infants were born with feathers and wing-like membranes along the arms. By 2000 BGM, the once human species was successfully transformed into a new species: the avian.

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: Avians are as diverse in appearance as the birds of Aenya. Their plumage may be as black as a crow’s wing or a rainbow of hues. Differences in coloration depend largely on diet, which is determined by territory.

Avians tend to be thinner and shorter than humans, a typical male weighing between 85—115 lbs, and standing at about 5′. A thin, wing-like membrane extends from the wrist to the heel, which can be folded in on itself to allow use of the hands. Completely unfurled, wingspans average from 9′ to 10′. At a 2:1 ratio, they are less aerodynamic than their aerial mounts, which is why they spend most of their time soaring from great heights. To increase altitude, the avian oscillates its wings in a manner similar to a hummingbird or a bat.

An avian’s feet are hard and scaly, with long, talon-like nails, which can be used for snatching prey and clinging to mountainsides. Their eyes glitter like crystal in the sun, and are much larger than a human’s, approximately the size of a lemon, with the iris extending to the edge of the skull.

Avian’s have little use for clothing, but are highly fond of ornamentation. Intricately wrought bangles of gold, jewels and semi-precious stones are commonly worn. Of their earliest traditions is that of the beaked mask, which mimics a myriad of bird species, albeit in abstract and impressionistic fashion.

CULTURE: Avians are reclusive and fearful, tending to avoid contact with other humanoid races. They are also proud, believing themselves morally and intellectually superior. This comes as no surprise, as their culture revolves around the concept of “ascendency.” Those of higher status live at greater altitudes, with their governing body, The Ascendency, dwelling at the very peak of Mount Nimbos. At 80,000 feet above Sea level, it is the highest point on Aenya. Their divine ancestors are imagined to live above them in the clouds.

Appearance is of utmost importance to an avian. Those born with more colorful plumage and bird-like features are thought to be more beautiful, and are more frequently selected for mating. Color also dictates social standing, marking regional and tribal divisions. Darker and more muted hues are considered less desirable, whereas blues and purples are indicative of royalty.

Despite their namesake, avians are mammals, and as such, do not hatch from eggs. They are born unable to fly, but slowly learn to glide as they mature. When an avian comes of age, at thirteen years, they are expected to partake in the Trial of Ascension. Tribal members gather upon the sacred plateau, known as The Crag of Destiny, whereby the uninitiated youth must prove their manhood by flying upwards onto a higher elevation, across a distance of one hundred and twelve feet. While a measure of air currents provide lift, many have been known to have died during the ceremony. Over the centuries, as the avian species evolved into its present state, the frequency of such deaths significantly decreased.

Most avians abhor violence, aside from the occasional hunt, but a small number of warriors are trained in use of the wingfoil, a lightweight sword consisting of many bladed feathers hammered together in the semblance of a silver wing.

Avians are skilled craftsmen, working with remarkably lightweight materials, including a lighter than air mesh called whisper. Whisper is used for everything, from clothing and receptacles to building material. The dome-shaped Tower of Heaven, where the Ascendency resides, is made from pure whisperstone.

RELIGION: The avian faith is a kind of ancestor worship. Those of higher social standing are more closely related to the first of their race, who is called Az, The Most High One. Az is thought to live above the world, in a city made of cloud, with his progeny. Each successive descendant falls lower in rank. These include Az’s son, Aza, his grandon, Azael, and his great-grandson, Azrael. King Azrael IX is said to be of this lineage.

 

 

THE AENYA BESTIARY: ILMAR

The Ilmar (plural) or Ilmarin (singular, descriptive) go by many names: savages, barbarians, wild humans. Given their propensity for nakedness, and for living in the wild, they are viewed by most civilized people as more animal than human. This view is perpetuated by the little that is known of their culture. Ilmar are often forced into wars and labor camps, or, ostracized by society, become beggars and prostitutes. Believed to be sexually promiscuous, Ilmarin women are often raped or taken as sex slaves. A lucky few become wives, adopting local customs, while keeping their heritage secret.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES:
Isolated for millennia between rugged hills, mountains, and sub-tropical / temperate forests, where food is often scarce, the Ilmar have developed lean, muscular physiques. Once subsumed into other cultures, however, they can be difficult to distinguish from other humans, aside from a coppery complexion and light-colored, translucent eyes. While their homeland is known for its ideal climate, Ilmar tend to be more resistant to temperature changes, and to physical hazards like brambles, thorns and rocks. Unfamiliar with shoes, the soles of their feet can be as tough as leather. Beyond the most extreme conditions, Ilmar find most fabrics unbearable, which may be ascribed to a hyper-sensitive sense of touch.

HISTORY:
For some natural philosophers, Ilmar are not human, but an early ancestor. While this view is heavily contested, it is true that they harken to the days of the proto-human, when technology was limited to building fires and to using simple tools of wood and stone. According to an inscription found within a Septheran ruin, the earliest word for human was ‘ilma,’ which the Ilmar use to denote their species, as they do not identify themselves as a separate social group.

For one hundred thousand to one million years, the proto-human lived peaceably, subsisting off hunting and gathering and basic agriculture. It can be said that, during this epoch, the whole of the human species lived as the Ilmar do. With the arrival of the Septhera c. 10,000 BGM (Before the Greater Moon) came the beginnings of a new age. Finding the dominant surface-dwelling species defenseless, the reptilian invaders conquered the planet with ease, enslaving all of humanity, save for a small population hidden between the Ukko Mountains and the Wildwood. There, the proto-human continued to thrive, oblivious to the changes occurring beyond his borders. It was not until 5 BGM that the people of the Ukko river valley were discovered by a Zo researcher named Kjus, who became so enamored by their simple way of life, that he abandoned his own society to become one of them. He named the people ‘Ilmar,’ based on his anthropological studies, and the land ‘Ilmarinen’ after them, and the flower of orange and violet that grew in abundance there the ‘ilm.’ For the remainder of his life, Kjus proceeded to teach the Ilmar of science, history, philosophy and medicine, but made certain not to pollute their culture with the excesses of his own civilization. To protect the knowledge of the Zo, he built a monastery high in the mountains, and before his death, founded the Order of Alashiya, known also as the Keepers.

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For the Ilmar, clothing is unnecessary

 

CULTURE AND SOCIETY:
Knowing nothing of war, crime, or government, the Ilmar live a simple agrarian life. Since everything in the community is shared, they have no concept of currency or property. As is said of the Ilmar, “No man is poor who wants for nothing.” Much of their day is spent farming and gathering, but they will hunt during a famine. In their leisure time, they enjoy singing, dancing, and telling stories. Their myth and history is recorded in verse, and passed down though generations. The holiest time of year is the Solstice, the longest night, when families gather from across the land to celebrate life, love and creation. It is during this time that young men and women, showing hair about the loins, pair off and jump the sacred bonfire, after which the pair is forever joined. It is believed that, during this ceremony, souls of lovers from past lives find one another again. Contrary to what many believe, the Ilmar do not engage in orgies, nor fornicate wantonly, but only with those with whom they are joined. When Solstice Night ends, it is expected that the female move into the male’s household, and by the following year, that she bear a child. Bringing new life into the world is the highest honor, and for this reason, mothers are afforded greater status than fathers, as it is from the womb of the mother that life originates.

The Ilmar lack many technologies, but are skilled wood-smiths and clay workers. Their artifacts include elaborately carved farming tools, throwing spears, atlatls, and pottery. They also excel in the shaping of trees to produce living homes. Camphor and oak are hollowed to make bedrooms, though most activities, including cooking, eating, and grooming, is practiced outdoors. As they are without any concept of crime, the Ilmar do not have doors, though partitions include curtains of bead or bone.

LANGUAGE AND CUSTOM:
For the Ilmar, personal identity extends far beyond the physical body, to encompass the inner being—or spirit—family, friends, other living creatures and even their environment. Anything one touches, or affects through his or her actions, becomes part of what it means to exist, and therefore, to be Ilmarin. Consequently, concepts of shame are incomprehensible. Clothing is entirely unknown to them, and so there is no word in their language for nude or naked. They also lack terms for secret, lie (deception), or even honesty. During their menstrual cycles, women camp by the river, where their blood is offered to the gods. The Ilmar are not, however, without a sense of individuality, and will decorate their bodies with flowers, bones, semi-precious stones like jade and lapis lazuli, and with elaborate mud patterns. Neither sex cuts its hair. Women wear a single braid, which can grow to their ankles, while the men wear locks down the middle of the back, either loose or in multiple braids.

To foreign ears, the Ilmarin language sounds hard and clipped, as they will use conjoined consonances. Common names include Xandr, Baldr, Heimdl, and Borz. Female names typically avoid the conjoined consonant, ending in ‘a’. Examples are Thelana, Aliaa and Anja.

RELIGION:
For the Ilmar, all life is sacred, from the smallest insect to the greatest camphor tree. They make no distinction between human or sentient life and animal or non-sentient (plant) life. All are part of a singular essence known as the Mother Goddess, or Alashiya. The goddess is thought to exist in all things, even non-living matter, in the wind, in sunlight and in the earth. Alashiya is never seen or heard, but can be sensed through the skin.

According to myth, the Goddess was born of two elder gods, Anu and Eru. At the beginning of time, these primordial deities danced through the astral void, singing to one another while making love continually, birthing new worlds in the process. After Aenya was created, the elder gods moved on.

The Ilmar do not consider dreams separate from reality. Each and every dream is a literal experience. By grinding the ilm flower into a fine powder and drinking it, ritual leaders embark upon purposeful dream journeys. In this way, it is believed, they can traverse time and space, other dimensions, and realms beyond death.

In death, the Ilmar become one with Alashiya, as they were before birth. The body is marked by a cairn close to home, typically under a tree, which is absorbed into the soil to become new life. Due to limited nutrition and a lack of medicine, the average lifespan for an Ilmarin is sixty years.

Character Bio: Demacharon

Battleground-Demacharon

Art by David Pasco

Like all eight year old boys of Hedonian citizenry, Demacharon is taken from his mother’s arms to train in the navy, and for the next ten years he is taught discipline, and ways in which to kill more efficiently. He later moves up in rank, from a lowly oarsman to captain of his own vessel. After a number of decisive naval victories against rebelling coastal city states, Demacharon is promoted to Regent Commander of the North, at which point he is charged with the subjugation of tribal lands in the northwest. After two decades campaigning, Demacharon is permitted to take a wife, a chambermaid named Niobe. The honeymoon is short lived, however, as he is sent out again and again, either to defend a border, quell a rebellion, or expand the territories. Never in all that time does he question the rightness of his duties, for he has been taught since childhood that the glory of the empire is an absolute good, and the superiority of their way of life is to be defended at any cost. And yet, far from the One Sea, in the wild, unmapped territories, his legions meet with increased resistance. Many barbarian peoples choose death to paying tribute, fighting to the last man, woman and child. The terrible cost of victory will haunt him for the remainder of his days. Despite heavy losses, his men are unwavering in their loyalty. This may be attributed to his courage on the vanguard, and that he never accepts any comforts that the lowest in rank do not also receive. Once, as throats run dry crossing through the Great White Flat, Demacharon is forced by his men to drink at the point of a spear.

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Standard of the Hedonian navy

Less than half his men, a mere nine thousand of the thirty sent out, return to Hedonia after a year-long campaign to circumnavigate the globe. Half are buried along the road, having succumbed to infection, disease and hunger. In the city, however, Demacharon is heralded a hero, given a parade, lands and titles, including that of Supreme Commander. Only one man, the High Priest Urukjinn, stands above him. But the ghosts of his friends and enemies continue to haunt his dreams, and with the birth of his only child, Astor, he begins to doubt. Does he desire such a life for his son? And how can he justify the murder of barbarian children, knowing what it means to be a father? Soon after his return, five-year old Astor is killed on the beach by merquid, after which his wife, Niobe, recedes into herself, overcome by despair. Having lost the only two things that mean anything to him, Demacharon becomes disillusioned, a broken man in search of redemption.

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Art by David Pasco

Appearances: Ages of Aenya, The Princess of Aenya

The Destructive Power of Ego

You don’t have to be a writer to recognize the destructive power of ego, but it helps. Ego has torn my family apart. I have one brother and two sisters. We were born into the restaurant business my father started forty years ago, but when we got together to form a franchise, which could have netted us millions, all we did was fight. I nearly threw a punch at my brother over a Xerox machine. My father’s pizza-chain dreams were dashed, and aside from major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, my siblings and I never talk. We run our own restaurants separately, the way we feel they should be run, and if I come up with some great new recipe, my brother will be sure to ignore it, no matter how big a seller.

I admit it. I am as guilty of egocentrism as the rest of my family. There was a time, before 2004 to be precise, when I thought myself a literary genius. Becoming a successful author, I believed, was inevitable. Then I self-published my first book and my ego took a nose dive. After a number of ho-hum book reviews, my huge head popped like a balloon, and I was forced to reevaluate myself for the first time. Hey, maybe I’m not as smart as I thought. Maybe I’ll have to work a lot harder to achieve my dreams. To this day, I struggle with ego like a Buddhist monk. The trick isn’t to think of yourself as worthless, but to transcend the very idea of self itself. But every now and then, after I impress myself with an especially good chapter, my ego begins to swell, and it brings nothing but heartache.

Sadly, I have known too many people with similar epiphanies who simply quit. The truth is often too great to bear, it would seem, like crossing the Second Oracle in The Never Ending Story. During my fan-fiction days, the problem of ego was recurring. Writers would submit to my site, fiction that was both grammatically and narratively atrocious, but I could not offer a shred of advice without them getting devastated to the point of giving up. I consider myself lucky not to have been born with the internet, because if I were, I am certain I would have been one of these people. My lonely, modem-less Commodore Amiga provided me with a comforting delusion, a delusion that kept me writing well into my college days.

But the catalyst for this post has nothing to do with restaurants or fiction, and everything to do with artists. I have a long and arduous relationship with art. In my elementary years, writing and drawing went hand-in-hand. I always thought of my stories in terms of pictures, and continued to do so until high school, when I learned I pretty much sucked at drawing. Here, again, ego got in the way of doing what I loved. Still, the visual medium remains important to me. If I could not write, I would like to have been an artist. A collection of books by the likes of Frazetta, Vallejo and Royo sits on my shelf, including Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, all of which serves as inspiration. Sometimes, a single image can spawn an entire story. This is why I spend thousands commissioning pieces for Aenya. I say it’s for ‘promotional reasons,’ but this is largely untrue. It’s mostly for the love of art. But here is where I run into the ugly problem of ego, because the only people I know with egos as big as writers are artists.

For the past 17 years, since 1999, I have worked with dozens of talented people. My best friend, who lives in Athens, Greece, and who came to the U.S. to study graphic design, refuses to work with me. This is someone who bemoans the fact that he can’t afford a cup of coffee. I’ve offered him hundreds of dollars to help me promote Aenya, enough to visit Starbucks for a year, but he won’t do it. Why? I can’t say for sure, though we did work on a project once, and disagreed—ONCE—over the perspective of a sketch. After that, we never talked again. Now, it’s quite possible I am an unbearable jerk. No, scratch that, I am most definitely an unbearable jerk, but when you’re broke and someone is offering you good money to do what you love, what the hell does it matter? If someone were asking to print my story somewhere, I’d be jumping for joy, not for the money, but for getting my name out there.

Hedonian trireme at sunrise

Here’s an even more absurd anecdote. For the cover of my first book, The Dark Age of Enya, I paid an artist $500. From what I could tell from his portfolio, he was quite talented, and his style seemed to match my own. He promised me the illustration in a month. The timing was important too, because I needed to send a cover to an editor, who was going to feature the book in a magazine. When do you think it was done? Two months? Three, maybe? Nope . . . it was finished after a year. A YEAR! But you know what, I procrastinate a lot myself, so this did not upset me too much. What was infuriating, is that after all that time, I didn’t even get what I wanted. I had asked him for a girl (Thelana) on a unicorn, with a large moon in the background. I never got the background, because, as he later told me, he just couldn’t figure it out. What’s worse, the moon he painted on the back flap was entirely the wrong color, even after I repeatedly told him the color it should be. But here’s the kicker, he was working with oils for the first time, and couldn’t get the girl’s leg right. It was just a smear on the canvas. After waiting six months and paying him $250, he flat out refused to fix it, and became angry when I suggested he try something easier than oil paint. It was a long, agonizing ordeal, but I did end up giving him the $500, even though I missed the deadline for the magazine and had to fix the coloring of the moons myself in Photoshop.

thelanabylafferty

You might think this kind of story is an anomaly, but it isn’t. It happens, in fact, most of the time. I worked with someone who decided, halfway into the project, that he didn’t want to do a background. I offered him extra, just so that my character didn’t look like she was floating in space, but he just didn’t feel like it. When I mentioned that he needed to have a better work ethic, he became furious and never spoke to me again. Again, I ended up doing my own background in Photoshop. Another artist made Thelana’s boobs too big. When I asked for a reduction, explaining that she had a gymnast’s build, he said, “I don’t do changes,” and collected $200. I ended up with a picture that, to this day, I absolutely loathe. I call her “Balloon Breasts Katniss.” Most recently, someone sent me a final, fully-colored image before I could approve of even a single sketch. “If you can’t use it,” he said, “you can just pay me half.” Getting him to make even the most minor revision became a huge hassle. This was especially frustrating, for I had made it clear how I wanted to brainstorm ideas. All he cared for, it seemed, was getting paid immediately, as the majority of our discussions involved money. He got his $250, as promised, but he lost the chance to foster a future working relationship with me.

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Balloon Breasts Katniss

I understand that people work to get paid. I understand that nobody can live off “recognition” alone. But by the same token, recognition is necessary if one hopes to someday quit their day job. Writing is really no different than painting in this regard. It’s a lot of hard work, something you pour your heart and soul into, not to mention a lifetime of practice. But unlike those in the visual medium, writers tend to get paid even less, and are almost universally neglected. And still we work tirelessly, sometimes for decades, without earning a dime, in the insane hope that someday our efforts will pay off. Yes, we have tender egos too, but we get critiqued in the most harsh ways imaginable, by every Tom, Dick and Harry who thinks he can crap out a novel. So, when a writer seeks to collaborate with an artist, he knows what artists go through, because he’s been there, and most likely he’s had it worse. For someone like me, who is continuously learning, who is endlessly revising and improving, it is patently absurd to hear someone say, “I don’t do changes. Fix it yourself.” I fight to suppress my ego, so that I am not afraid to make changes, and I listen to my readers’ advice, even when I know they know nothing about writing.

My intent here is not to badmouth anyone, which is why I have not been naming names. But many of these artists have quit, and they all had the same things in common: huge egos and a poor work ethic. My Greek friend told me one day, quite pointedly, “I am not an artist anymore.” And, as far as I can tell, the guy who did my original cover dropped off the map. On the other side of the coin, I have been fortunate to have known some wonderfully productive individuals, who gave me more than I asked for, because they cared enough to excel. Their heads were never so big to assume they always get it right the first time. Alexey Lipatov is one such person. I am often so impressed with Mr. Lipatov’s work, I will pay him more $ than we agree upon. Julia Bax is another. I loved working with her, because she always gave me 110%. Today, not surprisingly, Julia has made a name for herself as a comic book illustrator. These are enormously talented people, but their success has less to do with talent, and more to do with attitude. Whatever the profession, whether in a restaurant, at the keyboard, or in front of a canvas, successful people set their egos aside to do their best work.

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Julia Bax

Be sure to check out Alexey Lipatov’s gallery here.

Biographies

RadiaRadia is the 54th descendant of the Zo and heir to the throne of Aenya. She is known for her stunning beauty and mismatched eyes, one of turquoise like the greater moon, the other violet, like the lesser. At age eleven, she succumbs to a mysterious illness. Her father, King Solon, offers his kingdom for her life, but the only man who can cure her, a stranger named, Anabis, asks only for lodging in the palace, and that the king adopt his son, Zaibos. At fifteen, her step-brother seizes the throne, and Radia is forced to flee for her life. Searching for safe haven alongside her Hedonian protector, she learns she is able to feel the emotions of every living thing, that she can make flowers bloom when she sings and rain fall when she weeps. To learn more: The Princess of Aenya. Artwork by Selene Regener.

 

Battleground-DemacharonAfter a number of decisive naval victories, Demacharon is promoted to Regent Commander of the North, at which point he is charged with the subjugation of the people who do not yet pay tribute to the empire. Never does he question his duties, though his legions meet with increased resistance. Less than half his men, a mere nine thousand, return to Hedonia after his final campaign into the western wildlands. Demacharon is heralded a hero, but the ghosts of his friends haunt his dreams, and with the birth of his child, Astor, he begins to doubt. How can he justify the murder of barbarian children, knowing what it means to be a father? Soon after his return, his five-year old son is killed on the beach by merquid. Having lost the only thing that matters to him, Demacharon becomes a broken man in search of redemption. Read the complete bio: DEMACHARON. Artwork by David Pasco.

 

Zaibos Facing You

His monstrous appearance throws adversaries into a panic, and his infamous cruelty fuels the myth that he is a demon. No wonder he, born human, comes to be known as the Monster King and the Lord of Agonies. With the full bent of the army behind him, Zaibos usurps the throne of Tyrnael, and Radia is forced to flee for her life. The days following her flight are marked with despair and dread the likes the kingdom has never seen, as torture and executions become commonplace, and Zaibos’ true, sadistic nature is revealed to all. Read the complete bio: ZAIBOS. Artwork by David Pasco.

 

Nessus2Anabis is a scholar of humble beginnings, who desires nothing more than to learn of the Zo. The more he studies, however, the more he is intrigued by the possibility of immortality. His research leads him to Tyrnael, ancient capital of Aenya. When Solon’s young daughter, Radia, becomes deathly ill, he promises to cure her. He asks not for riches or titles, but to remain as an adviser. Not long after, Anabis extracts the essence of unicorn blood, hoping to become immortal, but is transformed into a monstrosity, and in this new body, he adopts a new name. Nessus. Read the complete bio: NESSUS. Artwork by  David Pasco.

 

grumblestump_by_david_pasco_by_ageofaenya-d8siczqGrumblestump is born into the warrior caste. Named Grumblor by his mother, who dies soon after giving birth, Grumblestump joins the annual bogren raids against Northendell. With Captain Sif leading the vanguard, the Knights of Northendell quickly route the attackers, but Grumblor refuses to flee. Believing he is destined for greatness, he fights his way to the outer wall, where he meets Duncan Greyoak. The inexperienced bogren is no match for the man-at-arms, however, and Grumblor loses his hand at the wrist, which he crudely replaces with a single spike. He is called “Grumble-stump” ever since, and as a crippled warrior, is consigned to live in the mines among the digger caste as a foreman. Read the complete bio: GRUMBLESTUMP. Artwork by David Pasco.

 

hordewebAfter untold eons adrift in the body of a golem, alone save for the one hundred and twenty voices in its head, the Zo lose their sense of individuality and go insane, calling themselves Horde. Ten thousand years from their exodus, Horde returns home. Encased in ice, the golem crashes onto the surface like a fiery meteor, cratering the ground and obliterating the land about Kiathos. But what it finds is a very different world from the one it abandoned, a primitive world with two moons and one sea, where science has become magic and the Zo are long forgotten. Read the complete bio: HORDE. Artwork by Filip Bazarewski.

 

 

 

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After returning from war, Thelana finds her home in Ilmarinen an abandoned ruin. With no food and no family, she seeks survival in Hedonia, stealing when she can. Wanting more than to live in the slums as a vagabond, she is eventually driven to climb into the Temple of Sargonus, where she is caught prying the pearl eyes from the idol of the Sea God. Now, in a cold dark recess beneath the city, she waits for hunger and for death. Read the complete bio: THELANA. Artwork by Alexey Lipatov.

 

xandrvsnakeman

The people know him as a savage, a wild man, a recluse. But when Xandr is summoned from the Marsh of Melancholy to the imperial capital of Hedonia, he discovers there is more to his life than he could have imagined. For thousands of years, the high priests have awaited him, for the one they call Batal. All the while, a portent of doom hangs over the city, as merquid creep upon the shore to murder the innocent. Read the complete bio: XANDR. Artwork by Alexey Lipatov.

 

EmmaWebEmma is a child vagabond, wandering the narrow avenues of Northendell, her oversized robes gathering the grime from the streets. Her only friends are ravens, and still she will be caught talking to herself. Of her mother, she has only a name, Ilsa, and an heirloom, a piccolo found in a wooden box. To Mathias, her father, she might as well be dead. Day and night, he labors in his study, obsessing over some secret he will not divulge. Growing into womanhood, her awkwardness brings undue attention, and Emma, accused of witchcraft, becomes an outcast from the only place she knows as home. Read the complete bio: EMMA. Artwork courtesy of Alexey Lipatov

 

 

efe73-grimmbybaxGrimosse is a construct of dead flesh brought to life by the lost arts of the Zo. Though he maintains no allegiance to Hedonia, he wears the gold and crimson of a legionnaire. An immense hammer, weighing several times that of a man, is uniquely suited to his strength. From whence he comes, nobody knows. He is discovered wandering the northern plains, but nothing subdues the monster’s rage but the pleas of the High Priest’s daughter, Merneptes, when her caravan is overcome during a revolt. The golem follows her dutifully for years until her suicide, when the city is overcome by merquid. Read the complete bio: GRIMOSSE. Artwork by Julia Bax

 

The Nomad: A Love Story DLC

The Nomad is a love story, a mythical tale of heroism and enduring faith, parts Odyssey, parts The Arabian Nights

Like the Greek hero, Odysseus, Dynotus is twenty years from his homeland, searching the desert for Sali—the woman he loves—who has been taken as a slave. It is rife with fantastic locales, mythical monsters, and epic bloodshed, all set against the endless sands of the Sahara.

The Nomad is my first novel, that I wrote when I was in high school. It is presented here for the first time in its entirety in PDF.

 

[The Nomad: A Love Story]

 

The Lightning Thief

So, I’ve been having this problem with fiction lately. The last eight books I’ve read have been about philosophy, religion and physics. It’s gotten to the point that my wife told me last night I should have been a physicist (really, I’d be clueless). But whenever I pick up a novel, I can’t get into the story, because I am distracted by my ambitions. I cannot help but compare it to my own books, and if the story is weak, I’ll rework it in my head, coming up with ways it can be improved. But eventually, I knew I’d have to get back to the business of reading, so that the literary neurons in my brain start to fire, forming the raw materials I need to build worlds. More importantly, I had to remind myself why I love story, and of the reasons people like to read.

My nephew, Arthur, told me about The Lightning Thief many years ago, which he enjoyed better than Harry Potter. This is coming from a kid who can talk to me about video games forever. The fact that he could enjoy any book came as a surprise to me, but I’ve long hesitated picking it up to find out why.

As someone of Greek descent who has written his own mythology—The Nomad—I am a bit sensitive, especially when the author, Rick Riordan, doesn’t even share my heritage. Now, I’m not saying that a writer can’t or shouldn’t write about a culture other than his own, but it still stings a little, knowing very few Greeks who know or care as much about these stories. There probably isn’t a soul on the planet who hasn’t heard of Hercules or Zeus. Historically speaking, our mythology defines who we are as a people. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all influenced by it in some way. When Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, he did so, in part, because he lamented the British not having a mythology of their own. The legends of King Arthur and his knights came long after most of the world’s folktales were established, in 1485, after Sir Thomas Malory’s La Morte d’ Arthur. By contrast, Homer’s The Iliad dates to between 1200-1100 BC. These stories were memorized by my great ancestors, passed down through oration long before writing fiction was invented. So I cannot help but be bothered by the fact that an entire generation will be learning these stories exclusively from a non-Greek.

Another thing I find irksome, writing in an established canon, with its own brilliantly realized backstory and characters and plot lines, feels a lot like cheating. Fantasy writers are particularly burdened with having to invent worlds from scratch, but by choosing to write Greek mythology, Riordan has most of his work cut out for him. He didn’t have to make up Zeus or Hades or Ares, all of whom appear in the story, nor did he have to create the monsters his heroes would be fighting, like the furies and the minotaur and the chimera. He also didn’t have to come up with any fantastic locations, like Hades or Mount Olympus. While it is true that all writers borrow, Riordan tends to borrow more than most. Tolkien did not invent elves or dwarves or trolls or dragons, but his interpretations were expansive to the point of reinvention, and The Hobbit is its own story. The same can be said of JK Rowling. She appropriates liberally from modern myth, with wands and witches and flying broomsticks, but adds enough originality to make the wizarding world hers. Compare that to The Lightning Thief, where the heroes encounter a bedmaker who stretches people to fit his mattresses, or cuts off their feet if they’re too tall. The tale is derived, almost verbatim, from the Greek.

Mythology aside, much of the story is cliche, copying heavily from Harry Potter. Just like Harry, Percy starts off as a normal kid with a miserable life. His stepfather is an abusive jerk, he has few friends, and he is having trouble at school due to his dyslexia and ADHD. Unbeknownst to him, however, Percy is special, in that he is a wiz—I mean, demi-god. It’s all explained to him by his half-human protector, Chiron, and not soon after, Percy leaves his normal life and home to live in a special school. Despite these blatant similarities, I have no doubt publishers were thrilled by Riordan’s manuscript, having found a somewhat original way to ape the success of Potter. They’re not wizards, they’re demi-gods! As if that weren’t enough, Percy must embark on a quest with his two closest friends, Annabeth and Grover (one boy, one girl). Of course, in a Snape-Quirrell-like twist, the real villain turns out to be someone unexpected.

Now, you could argue that, with the 19 million he earned last year, and all of the R’s in his name, that I’m simply jealous, and I’d be lying to deny it. Either way, why should I bother reading it? I never thought I would, until something happened to change my outlook. My 11 year old daughter got the book and loved it. And why wouldn’t she? She isn’t a jaded writer like myself, and she does not know, nor care, about the stuff I do. Having never read Greek mythology, The Lightning Thief is a great introduction, and having only read the first Potter book, its cliched elements are less tiresome. More importantly, heroes like Percy and Harry resonate deeply with children, because they speak to the deep seated concerns children have. What if my parents don’t love me? What if I am not special? 

With this mind, I decided to sit down with my daughter to get a kid’s perspective on The Lightning Thief, because, after all, Riordan didn’t write it with me in mind …


 

Nick: So, Jasmine, what did you like about The Lightning Thief?

Jasmine: I like his [Percy’s] sword, how it becomes a pen. I also like how the demi-gods and other mythological creatures were disguised in the real world.

Nick: Yes, I remember when they were in Hades, and a TV evangelist who had stolen some money was being taken away to be punished. Percy asked about the evangelist’s Christian faith, and Grover remarked how people tend to see things based on their beliefs. I found that very interesting, a clever way of dealing with ancient myths in a modern setting.

Aside from that, what were your favorite parts?

Jasmine: I really liked when Percy and his friends went to this hotel in Las Vegas. It was a really nice place, with arcade games and free food and everything a kid could want, but it turned out to be a trap. The heroes were really enjoying it, until Percy noticed how one kid talked and dressed funny, like in the 70’s. Turns out, the kid had been there for 40 years! Percy was smart enough to figure out what was happening, although he’d been there five days without realizing it.

Nick: Yes, that was one of my favorite parts too. It reminded me a bit of Odysseus and the sirens, how their beautiful singing lured sailors to a rocky shore, where their ships would sink.

OK, so what was your least favorite part?

Jasmine: I didn’t like the beginning, when they’re driving and they are attacked by the Minotaur, and the Minotaur “kills” Percy’s mom.

Nick: What about that didn’t work for you?

Jasmine: I just thought it was sad.

Nick: Don’t you think that makes you care about the characters more?

Jasmine: Yes.

Nick: So, isn’t that a good thing, in a way?

Jasmine: For the reader, maybe. Not for Percy!

Nick: Would you recommend The Lightning Thief to a friend?

Jasmine: Yes, it was very interesting, and great for kids starting to learn Greek mythology.

Nick: Hey Arthur [really] what a surprise seeing you here! How old were you when you read the book and what did you think of it?

Arthur: Oh, hey Nick. Yeah, I’m here. I read it in 2006, when I was 11 [just like Jasmine!]. I thought the story was very interesting because it took old myths and put them in a modern context. It’s how I imagine the ancient stories would have been told if they’d been written during our time.

Nick: Looking back at it, do you think it would be as interesting now that you’re older?

Arthur: Not really. When the fifth book came out, The Last Olympian, I’d lost interest. I was in high school at the time, and the writing felt as though it hadn’t matured, not in the way Harry Potter did.

Nick: So it seems like he [Riordan] focuses on the youth demographic.

Arthur: Yeah.

Nick: I agree. Rowling is a more accomplished author, and her work holds up, even today.

OK, guys, how do you rate it, from one to four stars?

Jasmine: *** 1/2

Arthur: *** 1/2

Nick: ** 1/2