Monamas

November 16, 2017

I’m planning on compiling the three Temple of the Exploding Head books into one deluxe volume. In going over the material, I re-discovered the Monama people who figure heavily in those books. A pet project of mine, their lore has expanded greatly since I completed the Temple books.

THE HORNED GOD:

 

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The Horned God, by Fantasio

A celestial being of immense power, the Horned God was worshipped by the Berserkacides for ages. By his command, they built a temple for him and buried it deep underground where they gave him torn and burnt offerings unabashed for centuries. Reveling in the carnage, the Horned God lured in unsuspecting alien beings for the Berserkacides to slaughter.

 

When he snared the alien beings who came to be known as the Gods in Jade and Sapphire (GJS), the Horned God thought they would make easy prey for his Berserkacides. They proved to be much more resourceful than he anticipated, building cities in the cold north of Kana where the Berserkacides couldn’t get to them. Additionally, the GJS began experimenting on the Berserkacides, eventually developing them into what became the Monama peoples. Unable to compete with the prolific Monamas, the Berserkacides went extinct. Forsaking him, the Horned God haunted the Temple alone for a vast period of time, and, like a spurned lover, he swore vengeance on the Monamas.  He eventually replaced the Berserkacides with the Golden People, whom he bade torment them without mercy.

THE GODS OF JADE AND SAPPHIRE:

Modern Monamas are creations of genetic engineering undertaken by an alien species  whom the Monamas referred  to as the Gods in Jade and Sapphire (GJS) for the clothes they wore. These were a decadent people who were at an evolutionary dead end in their development and were mostly infertile. Their lived in windowless cities in the northen reaches of Kana. In the fertile but savage Berserkacides of south Kana, they found possible surrogates to bear their offspring. Too brutal and blood-thirsty to be of any use, the GJS began capturing and experimenting on them with the goal of toning down their bloodlust. After several generations they successfully engineered what would become the Conox Monamas (Mo-Na-Ma meaning the “Bearers of Children”) who were much more docile that the Berserkacides, were extremely fertile, and only had a single pair of arms. Continuing their experimentation, they eventually created the larger Anuian strain, whom they considered to be more successful than the Conox.

The GJS were eventually made extinct by the Horned God’s shape-shifting Golden People, who stole their forms, slaughtered them, and occupied their cities.

THE TEMPLE OF THE EXPLODING HEAD:

 

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The Temple of the Exploding Head, by Carol Phillips

The Temple was a place built deep in the ground by the Berserkacides. Under his direction, they hacked out and shaped each brick with nothing but their bare hands. A colossal structure more than a mile long, they worshipped the Horned God there unobserved by the gods for ages without pause or rest. The Temple became a temporal anchor point due to the rage and suffering that went on there that was eventually discovered by the time-traveling Golden People. Given that the temple created a tunnel into the past for them to harvest slaves and brood-stock for their children, the Golden People continued the practice of worshipping the Horned God there, sacrificing Monamas there by the untold score.

 

THE GOLDEN PEOPLE:

Sinister and inscrutable people, the Golden People served the Horned God as his “Dark Angles” for many ages. Shape-shifting entities from far in the distant future, they rode the waves of time searching for temporal anchor points to latch onto and explore. When they discovered the Temple of the Exploding Head, they found a place rich with potential victims to exploit. Pretending to be subservient to the Horned God, they found the Monama people of south Kana ideal, prolific and disposable warriors for their various conquests, and even developed the ability to revert them in time, transforming them into Berserkacides.

KILLANJO:

Servants of the Golden People, the Killanjo were hideous beings and primary tormentors of the Monamas. They were invariably victims abducted by the Golden People and placed into a caustic substance that would prime their bodies to the rigors of time travel. This preparation created hideous results and put the victim into a rabid dream state which caused them to behave in a sadistic fashion. They were then sent back in time to do the Golden People’s bidding. They were often skinned and bleeding, with additional parts attached to their bodies. They could cast spells which would render the Elders immobile. They could not bear the sight of their own reflection.

ANUIANS:

The large, bold, more warlike strain of Monamas are, for the most part, gone from the modern Kanan landscape. In the early days of the League on Kana, the Anuians were many, their numbers on-par or exceeding that of the smaller, more timid Conox Monamas. Large, dense, incredibly strong and fast, the Anuians ruled over most aspects of Monama culture, their language and customs passed onto the more primitive Conox. They were bold, stubborn, and passionate. Rejecting weaponry, Anuians always fought with their hands.

Monamas AnuiansThe Anuians also were more inclined to fight back against the enemy: the Horned God and his angels–the Golden People, their constant tormentors. When the League came to Kana, the Anuians were impressed by their technology and presented themselves to their local warchief, a man called Atrajak of Want. They even presented him with a gift: a princess of the Nebulon tribe. Following Atrajak, they embarked on a long series of battles with the Golden People, confident he would lead them to victory. Losing his mind after a failed attempt to attack the Golden People on their home world, Atrajak was executed by the Sisterhood of Light. Without their leader, the Anuians were lost. The Golden People, seeking revenge, hunted down and harvested the Anuians without mercy, wiping them from the face of Kana, leaving only the more easily-controlled Conox.

Today, there is no stable population of Anuians on Kana. Their bloodlines still exist in the Conox genetics, and, on rare occasions, an Anuian will be born amongst the Conox. As the Anuians reqired a six-month gestation persion instead of only three for the Conox, when an Anuian is born, they are severely under-developed. The Anuian Jar is an artificial womb filled with brine, allowing the Anuian to complete their development.

Attempts to cross-breed Anuians generally leads to failure, as they tend to give birth to more Conox. They are also mystically bound to Kana, as they quickly grow sick and die when taken into space. They also are extremely susceptible to cold temperatures and were confined strictly to the south of Kana.

CONOX:

The smaller, more tame, more timid strain of Monamas, the Conox comprise 98% of the current population on Kana. Much smaller than the larger Anuian Monamas, they are slighter in many ways. Their heads are smaller, with, accordingly, smaller facial features. They are not as fast as the Anuians, and not nearly as strong, though they tend to be about four times stronger than the average Elder. They are, on average, only half as heavy as an Anuian.They are more prone to make use of weapons,

Monamas ConoxBut, the Conox are more adaptable than the Anuians. They tolerate cold temperatures much better and they can survive in space much longer. They are incredibly prolific, having ten to twenty young to a litter after only a three month gestation period.

Per Monama writings, the Conox were the original Monamas engineered by the Gods in Jade and Sapphire. The Anuians came later, a second-generation of engineered peoples whom the GJS considered to be superior to the Conox. Concentrating on the Anuians, the Conox were left to fend for themselves, and, accordingly, it was the Conox who had to fend off attacks from the Berserkacides to the south, relying on their weaponry and their sheer reproductive power to thrive and eventually overpower them.

BERSERKACIDES:

Terrifying monsters once the bane of the Monama peoples of South Kana, Berserkacides are extinct in the modern League, though the Monama believe they will one day return to plague them.
Bersekacides.jpgAncient Monama writing states in the primordial days of Kana, the Berserkacide (the word “Berserkacide” is a modern appellation–they had no particular name) was the apex predator of the south, living in the vast tangle of the forests. They were brutal and savage, hunting and killing anything in their grasp. They rejected civilization, had little language and no written word. They worshipped a terrible Horned God who was delighted by their horrendous bloodlust. Adopting them as his Dark Angels, the Horned God brought them victims to slay so he could watch and revel in the misery.
When the Horned God lured in a weak and sickly race of star-faring alien, he thought they would be easy prey for the Berserkacides. However, the aliens proved to be more resourceful than anticipated, and they made shelter in the cold north of Kana where the Berserkacides could not get to them. Furthermore, the aliens found the Berserkacides to be beautiful and fertile. Hoping to quell their blood-thirsty nature, the aliens, using their superior technology, captured them by the score and took them into their northern cities where they experimented on them. After several generations, they were successful, creating what would become the modern Monamas, much more docile, much more fertile and only having a single pair of arms. The Berserkacides loathed the Mo-Na-Mas and made war on them without end, only to find themselves wiped into extinction, as the Monamas were just as strong as they were and reproduced at a staggering rate. So passed the Berserkacide.

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A Killanjo with a leashed Berserkacide (Carol Phillips)

The hated Golden People, coveting the Monamas for their strength, discovered a method to revert them genetically, turning them back into Berserkacides at their whim. Using the strength and fury of the Berserkacide to their own ends, the Golden People enslaved the Monamas until the Horned God’s temple in the ground was destroyed, thus ending their reign on Kana. Lord Lon of Probert, researching the matter discovered a method to remove the genetic trigger, thus ridding the Monamas of the threat of being transformed into a Berserkacide forever.
Berserkacides were fast and savage. Any Monama at any time could be reverted into one, and, once transformed, there was no going back. They were cruel and merciless, taking great pleasure at harming and killing those they formerly loved. Their extra set of arms appeared rather crab-like. They did not appear to suffer from cold temperatures and were thought to be able to breathe under water. They had an odd hole between their eyes that was thought to aid them in locating prey. The hole appeared to be an adaptation coded into them by the Golden People.

 

copyright 2017: Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

 

 

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The Hospitalers

October 2, 2017

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Seal of the Grand Order of Hospitalers

The Warrior/Healers of the League, the Hospitalers are an old sect, second only to the Sisterhood of Light in age. They are also the only non-Vith sect to achieve a very high position of power in the League. Originating on Onaris centuries ago, they started as group of fighting valets. They served their Blue Vith lords and were their trusty companions. Powerful fighters, the Hospitallers earned a reputation for their speed and fierceness in battle, they using a strange silver weapon called a Jet Staff instead of usual swords, pistols or axes.

 

At some point, on the forgotten wastelands of some battlefield, the Hospitallers began trying to attend to their master’s wounds. The Elder-Kind having been Gifted with youth and no disease had little need for medical knowledge and almost nothing was known about basic first aid. The Hospitalers, through persistence and practice, perfected techniques in binding wounds, clearing blood poisoning, re-attaching fallen limbs and so on. Their knowledge grew so great that even the mighty Sisterhood of Light turned to them for medical help when it was needed, sharing with them some of their most guarded secrets that the Hospitalers have never divulged. The Hospitalers have always worn black and silver.

There are a number of Hospitaler Sects that may or may not be well-known outside of the Order:

Hospitaler HopkinsThe Hopkins: General practitioners of the medical arts, often inhabiting healing sanctums in cities all over the League. The Hopkins are the most commonly seen Hospitalers. They are expert at most medical needs the general populace might present to them. They are well-versed at healing maladies of the flesh, blood poisoning, limb replacement, dental/orthodontics, hair transplantation and hair colorations, eye myopia corrections, tattooing, 4-D tattooing, and various exorcisms.

Throughout their history, the Hopkins have been targeted by a number of Xaphan Warlords hoping to impress them into service, as the Hopkins are vastly superior in knowledge and skill than the Xaphan Cabalists, who are widely regarded as quacks.

BoblytesThe Boblytes: The most warlike of all the Hospitaler sects, the Boblytes often serve on the battlefield, both in a fighting capacity and administering medical care while the battle is in progress. The Boblytes are well-known and prized for their martial skill. A small force of Boblytes can often defeat much larger fighting groups. Occasionally, their presence alone can prevent or postpone a battle.

Though mostly regarded as the military wing of the Hospitalers, the Boblytes have contributed a number of technical innovations, including the Troutman scanner for measuring blood poisoning and the Veltromax used to keep terminal patients alive until more comprehensive medical care can be administered. They also invented 4-D tattooing as a method for triaging casualties on the battlefield.

KnickerbaumsThe Knickerbaums: Knickerbaums are adventurous and outgoing, seeking to expand the Hospitalers’ medical knowledge through quest and adventure. Knickerbaums are often found serving aboard Fleet vessels, hoping to discover new knowledge and medical techniques.

Second only to the Hopkins, the Knickerbaums are the most well-known sect outside of the Hospitaler order. Their black and silver uniforms and winged silver helmets are often thought to be the standard wear for the sect as a whole, but that is not correct. Their martial skills are also considered to be second only to the Boblytes. The most mercurial of all sects, the Knickerbaums are known to be a bit temperamental to work with, often giving Fleet commanders fits.

EphysiansThe Ephysians: A mysterious sect within the Hospitalers seeking to expand their knowledge by means other than those allowed by the Sisterhood of Light. They are the most reclusive and least seen/understood Hospitaler sect. They are often tasked to test and validate new sciences, including Mentralysis, Anthecary, Bodism and Time Apparent.

The Ephysians are not known to travel much, except in rare situations, and their fighting skills are next to nil.

In their quest for knowledge, they are often said to share information and collaborate with unconventional parties, such as the Hertogs, the Ming Moorlands, the Black Hats and the Xaphan Cabalists.

The JonesThe Jones: A branch of the Hospitalers located on the world of Bazz, The Jones in the modern sense barely resemble the main branch of the sect. They were assembled by the Boblytes in the early days of Bazz after it had been terraformed into a Type 1 world. They are named after a hero of Bazz lore: Darius Jones. With the passage of time, they have diverged away from the Hospitalers.  Their appearance is bizarre, looking nothing like other sects. They are deadly in battle and are masters of fast hypnosis.

It is said The Jones seek a being called Bellathauser, a creature whom they believe to be the pinnacle of human perfection.

copyright 2017, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips

We’re doing a pre-read for LOE Book 12, Kat soon. I as given a character interview to fill out from Loving the Book Blog Tours to help promote the event.

 

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Kat, by Carol Phillips

While I love all the various characters I’ve created over the years, Kat, the first countess of the House of Belmont-South Tyrol, stands out. She’s a ‘new’ person, freshly minted and her response to things tends to be  childlike, mixed in with a bit of hard-bitten earthiness. It’s a lot of fun to dive into her mind.

 

So, what are we waiting for?

1: When you walk into a room what do you notice first? Second?

KAT: Oh, you’re going to think I’m weird or something, but the wallpaper. I just LOVE wallpaper. I like to look at it, and I like to touch it, too, especially if it’s padded wallpaper like we have in the Chalk House. Hehe, you know, I even like licking the wallpaper when nobody’s watching. I guess countesses aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing, right? But, yeah, I like the taste of the glue. I’ve licked wallpaper up and down the Esther coastline. The Harvey’s in Dee have the best-tasting wallpaper around. It’s like heaven. The second thing I look for, I guess, is a bathroom. I love sitting in bathrooms. I love the porcelain, I love the tiles and I love the smell of the water in the fixtures. I could sit in a nice bathroom all day.  Yeah, I’m mental, I guess.

 

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Original painting of Kat, by Eve Ventrue

2: How would you change the world?  The things around you? The people around you?

 

KAT: I don’t know—I’m still pretty new to the world and how it works. Sitting here in this big ole’ manor by the sea, I probably miss a lot of it. I guess I just want everybody to love each other. I’ve spent such a long time not being loved, I want to make up for it now. It was horrible in the Shade Church, that’s where I was for a long time and every day there was something new to make you miserable. Now that I’m out, I want to be loved. Love all around, everybody happy. Let’s dance and love each other. Why not?

3: How do you learn best?

KAT (Smiling) Haha, On the floor, after lunch. I love sitting on the floor. I feel all caged up in a chair. Yeah, I’m weird, right? But, that’s how G taught me to read mostly, us sitting nose to nose on the floor under the table in the library. I think I’ve thrown more chairs than have actually sat in them. Chairs are great for throwing, but, they kind of hurt my back. If I really want a good night’s sleep, I slide off that crazy bed and get comfortable on the floor. Hell, everything’s better on the floor, and I mean everything.

 

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Conceptual Cover for LOE Book 12, “Kat”, by Carol Phillips

4: What are your goals in life?

 

KAT: My goals? You’re making my head hurt, haha. I think a lot of my goals I’ve already accomplished. Here I am in the big house with my man. I’m not bleeding, I’m not unconscious. I’ve got a full belly and we’re playing cards tonight. Looking ahead, I just want to be a good wife and a good mom once me and G have kids. That might sound simple, I guess, but when you’ve lived underground under the Black Hat’s heel for most of your life, it’s the simple things you crave. Oh—I guess I want to master my Shadow tech, too. I’m trying, I practice all the time, and I’m trying not to cheat using NatalZ of Mund’s ‘squash data’ we got in Vain. That’s cheating. I want to figure out how to make StT’s, like NatalZ could. But, it’s really, really hard. Hey, you’re not a Black Hat are you?

5: What unusual hobbies or interests do you have?

KAT (Blushing) Well, ok, I’ll just tell you. I love tying G up. I’ll tie him to anything I can find. Having sex isn’t the same unless I’ve got him trussed-up like a Nether Day goose. Umm, that doesn’t freak you out or anything, does it? I mean, it’s all in good fun and if he didn’t let me do it, I wouldn’t. Heck, he tied me up to the flag pole once and left me there. I’m not a bad person or anything. I’m sure other countesses out there tie their guys up—look what they’re missing out on. I can teach them if they want–Bondage, made easy by Kat, haha. I love my G … but I really, really, really love him all tied up. I guess that counts as a hobby.

6: What are you most afraid of?

KAT: Well, I really don’t like being shut into confined spaces. It’s not something I like talking about much. I just don’t like small spaces. Can we move on from that question?

 

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Kat, Wheel (Standing on the left), Mountain Walker and Bird, by Ewelina Dolzycka

7: If you had one wish, what would it be?

 

KAT (Tearing up) My Sisters … Bird, Walker, even Wheel. I’d give anything to have them back. Really miss them. I visit them every day on the hill. I even talk to them. I’m sorry, I need to step away for a moment …

8: What do you like best about yourself?

KAT: Me? What do I like best? I like my hair. Yeah. I like the color and I like my temples freshly shaved. I like how my hair whips around when it’s windy, like it’s alive or something. I could sit in the boudoir for hours letting them comb my hair. I used to not like my hair color at all, but, as few other people seem to have it, I guess it makes me stand out a little.

 

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Conceptual sketch of Kat, by Carol Phillips

9: What do you like least about yourself?

 

KAT: I’m too short. When I want to kiss my G, I’ve got to stand on something, or he’s got to stoop. I used to just climb up his chest and latch on, but I’m not allowed to do that anymore–my claws tore him up too much. I loved how tall Walker was, that’s how I’d like to be: longer legs, way tall, my head in the clouds.

Kat will be appearing in the League of Elder, Book 12, Kat, coming soon from Winter Wolf Publications.

copyright 2017: Ren Garcia

 

LOE Characters: Sam

February 17, 2017

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The original painting of Sam by Fantasio. This painting became the standard for all future paintings of Sam

Without question, Lady Sammidoran of Monama (later, of Blanchefort) has been one of my favorite characters since she was introduced way back in Book III: The Dead Held Hands. As such, she’s also the most frequently painted character in my stable. I wanted to bust out a post celebrating her visual history as she has been interpreted by various artists over the years.

 

As in all things, she started out life very different than how she eventually turned out with lots and lots of sub-steps in between.

A LAUNDRY GIRL:

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Sam’s humble original look (Carol Phillips)

Sam started out as a simple servant, a laundry girl toiling away in the bowels of a Calvert Great House. There was nothing extraordinary about her at the time, except that she was rather brawny as a result of her labor-intensive life, and her odd ability to create mental projections known as Killanjo. There was no “Monama” at the time, I hadn’t even thought up the House of Monama yet. That’s how my creative process works, little by little, each thought building on the last. About half way through writing  Book III, I realized the direction I had been heading in wasn’t very interesting. Though I hated to do it, a drastic change was needed, and fast. I had created the House of Monama recently, and at a dinner scene there was a Lady Strella of Monama, a friend of Lady Sarah of Blanchefort. I’d written Strella as a sort of Goth, wearing black clothes and black makeup.

 

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Sam, wearing her steampunk goggles, by Eve Ventrue

On a lark, I suddenly flip-flopped plain, ordinary Sam with the much more exotic, gothic Strella. All of a sudden, Sam was the Monama and Stella was on the outs, though I eventually brought her back as a Fleet ship’s captain from the Remnath area of Kana in Book IV. As I created, Sam and her new Monama heritage got stranger  with each successive draft.

 

The pale makeup she’d been wearing previously became her actually skin tone. Her fingernails became deadly claws, in fact the entire House of Monama became an alien species native to Kana with a savage history where they were once four-armed beasts slaying everything in their past.

I continued to create. The brand new alien House of Monama blossomed before my very eyes.

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Sam, displaying many features of a Monama–claws, huge eyes, pale skin, massive hair, and no belly-button. She’s wearing her Snugs medallion which protects her from the cold. (Fantasio)

I imagined different tribes of Monamas huddled around their fog-bound ancestral home, Lake Monama. I imagined the Astralons, the Nebulons, the Cardinals and Fphenooks. I came up with the idea the Monamas were fast and strong, much more so than the Elders of the north. I also gave them their greatest weakness, a fatal susceptibility to cold, keeping them based in the south, and I made them very unfit for space-travel, slowly got sick and weakened when away from Kana until they perished.

 

Remembering my grandmother, I added the White Emilia flower that plays a large role in the Monama mating rituals.

And then I created the beast raging within all of them: the Berserkacide and the Killanjo demons from nowhere that tortured them without pause.

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Sam and her husband, Lord Kabyl (Carol Phillips)

In dealing with my German friend, Fantasio, I hit upon the idea that the Monamas don’t speak LC, or “League Common” as a first language. I changed them around to speak a family of Monama languages: Anuie, Conox and Systerel. At the same time, since they were speaking different languages amongst themselves, I figured there might be different types of Monamas as well–Big ones and little ones. I came up with the Greater Monamas, or “Anuians” and the smaller, more frequent Lesser Monamas, or “Conox“.  Of course I made my heroine Sam a Greater Monama–having her be little and stringy wouldn’t do.

 

SAM AND KAY:

Sam has always been associated with Lord Kabyl of Blanchefort, whom she would one day be wed to. Monamas have prophetic powers, Sam dreamed of “Kay” years before he was born in the cold north of Kana. She saw him every night in her dreams. Bucking a Monama tradition of abandoning her dreams by planting a White Emilia flower at the Wailing Wall, the remains of an old Anuian Fortress, Sam clung to them, hoping one day to meet in person and win the heart of this Elder boy whom she loved.

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Sam Dead (Fantasio)

Sam, though, was an unwitting pawn of a terrible outlawed being known as the Horned God, and was used by him to frame the saintly god Carahil. After a series of horrific events, Sam died as a Berserkacide, shot to death by her love, Kay. Put to rest in her tomb atop Dead Hill, Kay grieved for her for nearly a year.

 

But, Sam had foreseen her transformation into a Berserkacide and death. She had taken steps to either prevent the change, or to circumvent it.

Using the arcane Machine, Kay was able to Bring Sam back from the veil of death where they were shortly wed at last.

As they began their life together, Sam discovered that, while she was in her tomb out on Dead Hill, Kay had been seeing other people, and was enraged. That fact that she was dead while this was going on didn’t matter to her–she would have rathered he spend the rest of his long life alone and miserable.

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Sam waiting for #6 (Sarah Smith)

Displaying a long-lived  jealous streak, Sam grew to hate the woman who dared to conduct a relationship with Kay while she was dead. It was Domeneau of Holly, #6 of the Xandarr 44. As the 44 often came to the Telmus Grove to pray at the statue of Carahil, Sam often found herself out there, waiting for #6 to show.

 

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

As you can see, Sam has been painted a lot by various artists–this sampling displayed here is hardly all of the materials we’ve collected over the years.

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Sam Awakens, by Rebecca Sinz

Sam continues to be one of my personal favorites. I can’t wait to see what further treasures will be created.

 

Bowl Naked

copyright 2017 Ren Garcia, Fantasio, Carol Phillips, Eve Ventrue, Rebecca Sinz and Sarah Smith

STENIBELLE–A MARY-SUE??

January 1, 2017

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Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

It was bound to happen. Somebody called Stenibelle a Mary Sue.

It’s been over a year since we released  LoE Book 9: Stenibelle. Stenibelle is unique in the LoE series, it’s by far the shortest book of all, ringing in at around 54 thousand words–much shorter than my usual average of 125 thousand (Hey, I write until I’m done, then I stop. I conducted the story I wanted to tell, which happened to be 54k). It’s also the first book in the series told entirely from a female protagonist’s point of view, all of the other stories tend to be  male/female ensembles.

I really don’t like pitting one gender against another, highlighting one while denigrating the other, which seems to often be the case in many books. That approach tends to be extremely polarizing, and, for me, rather annoying. I like Humanist stories featuring positive cooperation and teamwork between the sexes.

 

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The original artwork of Mary Sue accompanying Paula Smith’s  “A Trekkies Tale”

A new term has popped up lately, and, like most things people catch wind of, everybody wants to bust it out and make  bold use of it. The term has gotten batted around the Sociosphere like a piñata. The term in question: Mary Sue, mostly in regards to the character Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

What is a Mary Sue? The term is loosely defined and can mean different things to different people. Mary Sue first came from a piece of parody Star Trek fan fiction by Paula Smith entitled: A Trekkies Tale, where a 15 year old girl named Mary Sue graduates as the youngest person ever from the academy, joins the Enterprise and quickly outperforms Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty,  takes command of the Enterprise, captures Kirk’s heart, out-Vulcans Spock, and dies a hero for which a holiday in her name is remembered ever after.

So, with that in mind, a Mary Sue is:

–A female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.

–A female character who has skills and abilities that are out-of-joint with her backstory.

–A female character who exhibits near flawless traits.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Rey character seems to exhibit all three of these criteria, though her full backstory isn’t known at this point, and, there’s always the wildcard of “The Force” to explain away pretty much everything she does: Rey could just be the greatest Force user …ever. When reading a book or watching a movie, you usually expect the characters you’re watching to grow and change in some way. With a Mary Sue (or as in her male counterpart, the Gary Stu) there’s no room for her to grow–she’s already perfect in every way. Such a character tends to be a product of lazy or just plain bad writing. In any event, such a character tends to be annoying, difficult to relate to and tends to make some people think that the film has a singular Feminist Agenda, and thus the conversation and frequent use of the term “Mary Sue” today when examining strong female characters.

So, back to my original thought–somebody read Book 9 and thinks Stenibelle, the female protagonist of the story, is a Mary Sue. Let’s take a look at the facts and see if that is the case or not.

A Mary Sue is a female character who outperforms all other characters in a given platform.

I honestly can’t see how Stenibelle outperforms anybody in the story. At the beginning Stenibelle is in prison, for failure and malfeasance of command during the Seeker Affair. She was captured in space, clapped in irons, frog-marched off her own ship by Lt. Gwendolyn and thrown in jail. She is saddled with self-doubt, self-loathing, is full of angst, full of self-pity and, though she, as a fully trained Tyrolese Sorceress, has the skills to escape from her imprisonment, she chooses not to as she wishes to hide from her problems.

It takes a monumental amount of tenacity and self-growth to not simply triumph in the end and conquer her personal demons, but to simply survive. Along every step of the way, her skills are put to the test and she fails as often as she succeeds. She also needs timely assistance from her allies around her, otherwise, she might nearly have been either killed or enslaved. Stenibelle does triumph, but it’s no day at the beach.

A Mary Sue is a female character whose skills and abilities are out-of-joint with her backstory.

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The VUNKULA , provided by her benefactor, Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, is one of Stenibelle’s most trusty weapons

Stenibelle has quite a few abilities that a common person about the League probably does not have, but, these abilities are all consistent with her backstory. She has the exact same training as Paymaster Stenstrom, thus, she was trained for nine years by her mother, Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, in the ways of Tyrol Sorcery. As such, she is able to Fade into the Shadows, essentially, to  turn invisible. She is highly skilled at picking various types of locks. She is a skilled herbalist and chemist, well-versed at creating and using Holystones for a variety of effects and can conjure them at will out of thin air, along with her deadly MARZABLE throwing daggers. Stenibelle is also highly proficient at using the VUNKULA of the House of Grenville, which is a powerful weapon she makes use of quite a bit. A former lover, Lord Geryron of Grenville, taught her how to use it.

 

Given all that, nothing Stenibelle does in the  story is out-of-the-blue or unexpected and is perfectly in-line with her background and training.

And finally:

A Mary Sue is a female character who exhibits near flawless traits.

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An unused piece of concept artwork, by Carol Phillips 

Essentially, this point means the character in question is nigh invincible, needs no help, and has no defects. As I mentioned before, Stenibelle is far from flawless. She is highly skilled, but is hampered by considerable self-doubt and inexperience that must be dealt with during the course of the story. She is crippled mentally and spiritually by past failures, and she needs lots of help along the way to discover herself, clinging to her friends, Lord A-Ram and Lady Alesta, for strength and guidance, and to her benefactor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp for financing and the exotic tools she needs for success. Even Bunged Up into a ruthless, heartless person by over-reliance on bolabungs, Stenibelle loses a brief fight with Lady Alesta–who is a monk, a Pilgrim of Merian. By the end of the story, Stenibelle discovers her confidence and her courage to become a truly formidable and seasoned adventurer, but it takes a long time and a lot of assistance to get her to that point.

 

So, given all of that, I’m not certain what story that person read to come up with the notion that Stenibelle is a Mary Sue. Perhaps he didn’t properly understand the term and simply busted it out in a review to sound current.

Who knows.

Stenibelle is a fully-developed human character exhibiting all the flaws, weaknesses, foibles, skills, potential, endurance and capacity for self-growth that we all have … she just happens to be a girl.

Bowl Naked
copyright 2017, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips

 

StG Characters: Kat

October 12, 2016

 

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Kat, by Carol Phillips

Every fictional character goes through a genesis of sorts during the creation process, be it big or small–it’s just natural for an author to either polish up or improvise bits to a character during the creation process, or to change their mind completely and start over.

 

It was doubly so for Kat in the upcoming LoE book 12: The Shadow tech Goddess: Kat. I changed her so much she really isn’t the same character as when I started.

I do that a lot, though. As I prepare no notes or pre-plan no outline for a story project, I tend to frequently change course, get inspired, add tid-bits, or, change direction entirely. I’ve cut lots of pretty cool stuff because I either thought I was treading over previously covered ground or could find no good use for the material. The Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy  is nothing like what I started out with–nothing.

And so, we come to LoE Book 12: Kat. First introduced in Book 8: The Shadow tech Goddess, as one of the 7 potential love interests for Paymaster Stenstrom across the universes, my original intention with Kat was to simply pull her off the page as is and resume her tale in Book 12 with little or no intro or preamble. In StG, Kat was a Black Hat sent with several others to infiltrate the Ruins of Clovis in the Kanan north and uncover evidence of the identity of the Shadow tech Goddess. It was, essentially, a suicide mission with the possibility of success remote at best.

 

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Kat, as she appeared in Book 8, The Shadow tech Goddess, by Eve Ventrue.

Kat was a Knife-class Black Hat, very mobile, very heady with micro-line Shadow tech. When Paymaster Stenstrom came upon her in the cold ruins, she was alone, her two nameless companions dead, killed by whatever lurks in the depths beneath Clovis. She was cold and uncaring, limber to the point of being rubbery and quite ruthless.

 

This somewhat limited character is what I hoped to make the heroine in Book 12. I made a good go of it, but, as I neared the completion of the first draft, I realized something.

Kat was boring.

It’s important for an author to be able to step back to see the naked truth as it unfolds before them. Though I loved the limber, blonde-headed Kat (I had based her off of Ginger Rogers), I had to face the fact she was not only a re-tread from previous characters in the series, she had no life. She was plain boring. Her transformation from Black Hat to loving Countess had already been done (as with Syg and Duchess Torijayne of Olyn), and her love for Paymaster Stenstrom bordered on the dreaded “Insta-Love”. I stopped writing. I knew action had to be taken.

 

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Proposed cover for Book 12, by Carol Phillips (Kat’s new wind-whipped Mohawk easily seen in the sketch)

I figured I’d go back, add a few scenes to the beginning of the book, flesh-out Kat a little bit and give her her own path. Shouldn’t take too long, I thought.

 

It would take half a year and about 40 thousand words before I was done, the “few scenes” I wanted to add took on a life of their own and Kat would never be the same.

I started from an elemental level, following Kat as she struggled to survive in the Black Hat’s horrid training facility, the Shade Church. I took away her mastery of Shadow tech, making her a novice in the extreme (though I would have to figure out a way to give her mastery back again by the end of the book). I gave her mentors, those watching her from afar, weeping as she suffered under the Black Hat’s heel.  I even included Kat’s sisters, those sent with her to Kana. I also added the gods, people in far away places, mystical items, the works.

I threw the lot at Kat, and her transformation was stunning. Gone was flat, boring, Kat, replaced by a remarkable new character, full of life, one that I was proud of. Fueled by these changes, I finished the book in no time.

Kat is in the initial stages of pre-production. It should be out by 2018.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips.

 

 

The Ballwigs

July 2, 2016

Of all the various sects rolling about the League, it is probably the case that the Ballwigs are the most notorious and reviled. Never has a sect been so despised, feared and coveted all at once.

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Emblem of the Ballwigs

The Ballwigs are a select sect of beautiful, wealthy and socially influential ladies from all over Kana, Hoban and Planet Fall. They are both married and unmarried. Their primary function is to attend balls, endurocons, cotillions and other such social events across the League. Their mere presence tends to elevate the event they attend in stature.

What makes the Ballwigs so universally reviled is their frigidity and terminal unavailability. They take great pride in rejecting any attempt to socialize with them, with any and all attempts being rebuffed. They even go so far as to compete amongst one another to determine who can reject the most people. Whichever Ballwig collects the most points over a given period of time, receives a fabulous Golden Harrsprung made of gold, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.  Points are given for the following:

Being asked to dance

Being offered a drink

Being offered a cigarette

Being asked for a visit

One of the most coveted prizes the Ballwigs seek: hearing the words “I love you”. It is also said that the greatest point allocation is applied if a person commits suicide after being rejected.

If a Ballwig ever returns any affection shown to them, or if they publically state their love for a person met at a ball, they are immediately cast out of the sect.

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Lady Vendra of Cone, the founder of the Ballwigs. (Eve Ventrue)

The founder of the sect is Lady Vendra of Cone, a spinster socialite from Remnath who was spurned at a ball by the man she loved. Determined to get even and make others feel as she did, she created the Ballwigs to unleash hell upon the hearts of men everywhere in the League.

The rival sect to the Ballwigs is a group known as the Lambs, a collection of much more matronly ladies actively seeking to attract a husband.

Their emblem is a Harrsprung, a mythical rabbit-like creature of Vith lore leaping out of a garland wreath. The Harrsprung is said to be uncatchable.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue

 

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Roethaba of George, by Carol Phillips

Among the many new characters introduced in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books is the mysterious Xaphan Marist Roethaba of George.

 

Roethaba, for a number of reasons, is truly an enigma, so much so, even her very existence comes into question.

CONSUMED BY SICKNESS??

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Roethaba is often in the presence of her bodyguard, Hruntha, a Haitathe warrior. (Painting by Eve Ventrue)

Per the Book of Xaphan, Roethaba  was born in 3273 (or 003486AX in League designation) as the 5th daughter in the Court of George, a favored, gentile branch of the House of Burgon. Her mother, Marist Styxa of Burgon, was said to have snuck into a League ball and cuckolded with a Vith lord named Lord Mauro of Bloodstein. Two years later, Roethaba was the result, a beautiful, golden-haired girl, and she was given to the Court of George, who were lacking in females. A retelling of the story insists that Styxa gave birth to twin daughters, Roethaba, and Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein.

 

Roethaba’s young adulthood is very sketchy, with stories wildly varying. One story has her going to school in Midas before becoming an A-List Marist, other stories claim she was deathly sick as a child, inflicted with the genetic scourge of flesh rotting, an inherited defect brought on by the Burgon’s habit of eating human flesh.  Other stories claim she was sustaining herself via arcane methods at the expense of her twin sister, Lady Chrysania of Bloodstein; her rivalry with her sister is a common thread in her narrative, be it arcane or social.  In any event, Roethaba was considered a stunningly beautiful woman, long sought after by many Xaphan Warlords.

A CYBERLING??

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Roethaba is friends with the notorious Willhella Cormand-Grande, the Made Black Hat of Waam (Painting by Eve Ventrue)

If anything, Xaphans love stories, and any Warlord or Marist of note have their life history extensively chronicled by people known as “Daemonesses“.

 

Roethaba’s history was compiled by a Deamoness named Sysaphaea Marx (or, in League designation: of Marx). As she worked, Sysaphea ran into a significant problem. Though Roethaba was notorious for her love affairs, her expensive tastes, her scandals, her Haitathe bodyguard, her friendships with a number of Black Hats, including Wilhella Cormand-Grande, the Mad Black Hat of Waam, she could find no tangible proof Roethaba of George had ever been to any of the places she was said to have been. In fact, she could find few credible people would could say that they’d ever seen her in the flesh other than from a distance. Sysaphaea had seen her several times at various social functions, but could never get close to her or be granted an audience. Her 10 foot tall bodyguard Hruntha, would allow her no admittance–were it not for the bodyguard’s presence, she would seem like a ghost. She began to suspect that Roethaba of George was a Cyberling, a fictitious person with an extensive made-up history making her seem real, hiding some vast secret. She suspected the League was involved, possibly perpetrating some grand conspiracy in Xaphan society.

In her digging, Sysaphaea wrote that she found a hazy link at a ruined temple once dedicated to a dead goddess, Anabrax, the Goddess of Fertility. In the temple was a fading mural connecting Roethaba, Lady Chrysania and an old dictator from the early days of the Xaphan empire named Queen Ghome of Trimble–their faces were all there, painted together.  What that connection is, Sysaphaea never found out, as she dissapeared without trace, never having finished her work, leaving only incomplete hints as to what she had stumbled onto.

For now, Roethaba of George continues to make headlines and break hearts across the Xaphan empire for her outrageous behavior, still ever elusive and full of mystery.

bloodstein-purple CroppedRoethaba of George appears in the League of Elder, Book 10–The House of Bloodstein from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, and Eve Ventrue

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Queen Ghome and her Attendants (Painting by Fantasio)

The Xaphans, if anything, are great lovers of stories. Though smaller and not nearly as old as the League, Xaphan lore is rife with shadowy characters and hidden places whispered into anxious ears in the insane courts of Burgon, George and Midas.

 

One such name is that of Queen Ghome, a favorite in Xaphan Society. Her name is familiar on multiple worlds, her likeness is seen in any number of statues and  paintings hanging in Xaphan museums, even an entire class of battleships was name in her honor, her name conjuring up images of strength, tenacity and endurance.

Who was Queen Ghome? Was she a real person of antiquity, or is she simply a colorful figure of lore, more myth than reality? What deeds is she attributed with to earn her such a ready place in Xaphan culture?

Queen Ghome first came to light in Xaphan history thousands of years prior when she claimed the hand of Queen Xo of Trimble during the Night of Centenos when many came from across the Xaphan Empire to court and win her love. In the early days of the Xaphans, one of the first planets colonized and established as a Vith stronghold was Trimble, therefore the opportunity to claim its throne was clamored for by many. To the shock of all attending, it was an unknown woman milling in the crowds who claimed Xo’s hand, becoming Queen Ghome, ushering in the brief age of the Two Queens of Trimble.

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The Two Queens of Trimble. Queen Ghome (on the left) began her practice of wearing horns after she claimed the throne. Note the floating Garden of Zama in the sky.(Painting by Fantasio)

Who was Queen Ghome? Many suspected she was a refugee from the League, with s0me even saying she had once been a prisoner of the hated Sisterhood of Light. Many thought she was a sorceress. With the sudden death of Queen Xo less than a year into their marriage, Queen Ghome would not remain an unknown for long. She ruled Trimble with an iron fist for over six-hundred years, slaying millions, putting her people to the lash and instigating any number of small to medium-sized skirmishes with both the Xaphans and the League.

 

THE WOMAN OF A THOUSAND FACES

Bloodthirsty tyrants and deadly potentates are no strangers to the Xaphan Empire. They come and go quite often, many forgotten to the ages once they’re forced from power and executed. Queen Ghome, though, was no ordinary tyrant. Everything about her was strange and fanciful, worth story-telling. For one, those in attendance in her court reported that her appearance varied wildly from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. Elias of Sorrander, a mystic known for her ability to see through elaborate Cloaks, was a frequent guest in Queen Ghome’s court in the early days of her reign. She often wrote that Queen Ghome’s frequent changes in appearance, including hair color, general features, size and skin tone, appeared to not be a Cloak, rather her changes appeared to be quite real. She also wrote the one sure way to tell for certain when one was in the presence of Queen Ghome was to look into her eyes: red and piercing, like the eyes of a demon.

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Horns and deadly red eyes were a frequent Queen Ghome attribute. (Painting by Carol Phillips)

Elias also wrote of Ghome’s other body changes she often indulged in. She was known to flit about the towers of Centenos Castle with a leathery pair of wings, sometimes peeking through the windows of guestrooms in the upper floors.

The thing most commented on was Queen Ghome’s tendency to appear to her subjects wearing horns. Horns of various sizes, shapes and colors. Many who visited Trimble mentioned Ghome’s horns, though a few wrote that she wore a horned helmet instead of sporting real horns.

THE SUITORS:

As Queen Xo had sought a suitor to the throne of Trimble, so too did Queen Ghome, though, to be a suitor for her hand meant facing death. Over many years, she put to death countless suitors, robbed and tortured others, and humiliated the rest. She often enjoyed making her less-favored suitors stroll through her deadly Garden of Zama where a host of carnivorous plants she had cultivated, lurked in wait for an easy meal. She never did take a husband, and many of the enemies she made during that time would lead to her eventual downfall.

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Queen Ghome was said to have command of a great beast that guarded her vast wealth. She often used this beast against her enemies. (Painting by Carol Phillips)

AN IMMORTAL??

 

In all, three women named Ghome ruled Trimble over six hundred years. Ghomes I and III were very similar in temperament to the point of being interchangeable, while Ghome II was considered a genuine saint. Ghome II also abjured the practice of wearing horns and changing her face. Still, scribes on Trimble often speculated that Ghomes I, II and III were the same woman, with Ghome II being under a spell that changed her brutish nature to a more benevolent one.

THE BMQ

The people of Trimble living under Ghome’s lash never forgot about poor Queen Xo, whom they believed was murdered. An underground sect grew in the province of St Georges called the Brotherhood of the Murdered Queen, dedicated to the overthrow and prosecution of Queen Ghome. Ghome and the BMQ were constant antagonists. Ghome’s assassins, the Mensada, often smoked the BMQ out of their hiding places and slayed them only to see the sect rise again elsewhere. Ghome was also said to command a giant metal beast that was unstoppable in battle whom she used to slay the BMQ.

Conversely, Ghome’s ruthless and capricious rule was unsustainable, nearly toppling her from the Trimble’s throne several times. During these times, she was secretly propped up by the BMQ, as they wished to be the force that toppled Queen Ghome, not economics.

THE BATTLE OF THE TOMB

After six hundred years of rule, Queen Ghome III was finally deposed from the throne by the BMQ, backed by the warlord Vai of Sorrander and his fleet of battleships. Vai’s great grandfather, Wilmer, had been a rejected suitor of hers. After a pitched battle on the floating Garden of Zama, the BMQ defeated Ghome’s forces and sought to capture her. Ghome herself was never found among the dead, leading to speculation that she had escaped Trimble, though, she was never seen or heard from again.

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Mysterious socialite Roethaba of George is often thought to be Queen Ghome in disguise. (Painting by Carol Phillips) 

Xaphan society refused to let her go. Many believed she had in fact escaped the Battle of the Tomb, wearing a different face and is living a more inconspicuous life somewhere, waiting to rise again. Some thought that Baroness Camilla of Sorrander was Queen Ghome in hiding, a rumor she enjoyed perpetuating. Other names bandied about are Millicent of Tuck, Melazarr of Caroline and the elusive Roethaba of George–are all people who be Queen Ghome in disguise.

 

And, it could also be that the venerable Queen Ghome simply died at the Battle of the Tomb, her body buried in a mass grave along with the other victims of that conflict, leaving many to scratch their heads and wonder, her lore simply too delicious to let die.

bloodstein-purple CroppedQueen Ghome’s many secrets are explored in the upcoming House of Bloodstein books, from Loconeal Publishing

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips and Fantasio

 

 

 

HOB Legends: Menk

February 7, 2016

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Menk with its Blood Box in the background (Ewelina Dolzycka)

 

Menks are evil spirits often tasked to guard various objects or treasures. They appear in the upcoming LOE Book 10/11: The House of Bloodstein. Menks are horrific in appearance and fearsome in their power.

 

Menks are fixtures of Vith lore. From Vith Household to Household they are varied in their appearance. Menks can appear as famished, lanky humanoids possessing incredible strength and speed. They may also be part human, part animal, with animal heads, claws, wings, tails, etc. They may also be faceless, handless, and footless with metal hands and feet. Menks show little or no outward intelligence or emotion. They exist simply to stalk and kill any who fall into their gaze.

THE CAUL-DE-MENK

As they are varied in their appearance, Menks are also varied in their mystical origins. The most common method is to be cursed into becoming a Menk by a sorcerer or enchantress, who often use Menks to guard their arcane treasures.  Additionally, according to some, if one has lost something precious and somehow loses their life whist searching, they might be transformed into a Menk, condemned to guard lost treasures for all eternity. Other stories speak of a mystical statue known in the Vith language as a Caul de Menk. Those wishing to protect their hoards place these statues on their grounds, hoping to both scare off the curious, and to collect more Menks. These statues are said to have hollow eyes where the light of the Kanan moons, Elyria and Solon, may shine through. If one beholds the glowing eyes of a Caul de Menk, then one is transformed into a Menk forever.

MENK-SIGN

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Menk, by Fantasio

Some people and animals appears to be pre-destined to become a Menk later on in life. Such people are said to bear Menk-Sign, where their appearance in mirrors, paintings and photographs appear monstrous, becoming more so as the time of their transformation draws nearer. Some people with Menk-Sign take steps to rid themselves of the condition. The waters of the Indigo River on Hoban are thought to slow the process down, removing it completely in some cases. Xaphan Cabalists have rituals to thwart Menk-Sign. Bartering with a Menk, performing some task for it, will also cure the victim.

 

 THE BLOOD BOX

Whatever guise they take, Menks are fearsomely powerful and nearly impossible to bring down. Menks keep their vital organs in a separate place called the Blood Box–how they remain alive without their vitals is a mystery. As such, Menks are virtually indestructible. They can absorb massive amounts of damage and continue to function. Arcane weapons and items can do them harm, but only if vigorously applied.

The best way to defeat a Menk is to locate their Blood Box and destroy their organ hidden within, once that is accomplished, the Menk will die. Menks go to great lengths to hide their Blood Boxes. Their boxes can come in many configurations, from a small jar, to a chest, to a whole shrine-like structure, guarded, in turn, by other Menks. The Blood Box can be hidden far away, buried deep or even located on other planets.  Many times, locating the Blood Box is nothing short of Impossible.

DISEMBODIED HEADS

Menks have the ability to remove their heads from their bodies. They often place their heads in elevated, advantageous positions giving them a wide field of vision. They may also summon the assistance of various evil creatures to carry or fly their heads great distances.

bloodstein-purple CroppedMenks give our heroes everything they can handle and more in the House of Bloodstein books, coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2016, Ren Garcia, Fantasio and Ewelina Dolzycka