StG: The Hall of Mirrors

December 27, 2013

The next book in the League of Elder series, “The Shadow tech Goddess” deals with extra-planar activity, the crossing of one plane of reality to another. A key concept when dealing with “reality-jumping” is a place called The Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors is heavily featured in the book.

The Hall of Mirrors is the threshold from one plane of reality to another. If one wishes to cross into another plane of reality, one must first cross through the Hall of Mirrors, and that is not a simple task. Jumping from one reality to the next is dangerous to the well-being of the universe as a whole and the Hall exists to actively prevent such a thing, and, possibly to punish or eliminate those attempting to do so. It is not a naturally occurring phenomena, however its creators and custodians are unknown.

SUMMONING THE HALL:
It is possible to summon the Hall of Mirrors to oneself via technological, arcane and telepathic means. Those consciously seeking to pass through the Hall tend to draw its wrath much more than those who unconsciously summon it via telepathic means.

AN UNFASTNESS IN SPACE AND TIME:

Map of the Hall of Mirrors, by Ewelina Dolzycka

Lord A-Ram’s hand-drawn map of the Hall of Mirrors, by Ewelina Dolzycka

The Hall of Mirrors has no set appearance or size, yet it has a rigid set of characteristics which, no matter what it looks like or how big it is, are always present. It has no set location or place of habitation and can appear anywhere given the correct circumstances. The accepted rules of time and space do not apply when within the Hall. Time might stop when inside the Hall, or ages may pass.

It has two specific parts, the Hall of Mundane and the Hall of Possibilities

THE HALL OF MUNDANE:
The Hall of Mundane (HM) is the entry point to the Hall. It is where one came from and almost always where one exits. Given the changeable nature of the Hall, it is very difficult to know when one is inside the HM and when one is not. Some people, be it intentionally or unintentionally, have the ability to summon the Hall of Mirrors to them and spend a great deal of their lives rolling about within the HM, blissfully unaware of where they are. People with his ability are known as Mirrorbrugs and are valuable commodities to those who actively seek to penetrate the Hall.

The HM is a safe portion of the Hall of Mirrors. Moving about in it does not trigger the potent defenses lurking in the second part of the Hall: The Hall of Possibilities.

THE HALL OF POSSIBILITIES:
The next section of the Hall of Mirrors is the Hall of Possibilities (HP). Like the previous Hall, it too has no set appearance and can look like anything, however, those actively seeking to pass through it often describe the HP as looking like a dank stone corridor running to the left and right. To the left is the next plane of reality and the exit of the Hall. To the right is the chamber of a destructive entity known as the Shadow tech Goddess. The Shadow tech Goddess is the main defense of the Hall and those entering the HP invariably stir her up and draw her ire.

THE ANATAMETER:

Extra-Planar Entities, like the dreaded Tempus Findal, are immune to the defenses in the Hall of Mirrors and pass through as they wish (Fantasio).

Extra-Planar Entities, like the dreaded Tempus Findal, are immune to the defenses in the Hall of Mirrors and pass through as they wish (Fantasio).

Guarding the intersection between the two Halls is a device known as the Anatameter. The Anatameter is the key, the locked door preventing passage from the HM to the HP. With it in place, almost all attempts to pass are thwarted, most do not suspect they were ever in the hall or Mirrors and encountered the Anatameter in the first place. It is not completely foolproof as certain Extra-Planar Entities are able to pass it without notice. The Anatameter devices are created by a skilled set of craftsmen known as the Anamatics. It appears to be the case that the Anatameter takes on the intent of the Anamatic who created it. If they are kind, then the Anatameter will behave in a kind fashion and not harm those trying to pass it. If they are cruel, then bad things will happen to those encountering it, including the unleashing of the Shadow tech Goddess.

CUSTOM ANATAMETERS:
An Anatameter may be created specifically for certain individuals. Anamatics sometimes do this, though the payment they require is said to be quite steep. In such cases, the Hall of Mirrors will be drawn to that person at their peril.

Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR (Eve Ventrue)

Professor Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR (Eve Ventrue)

THE NODES OF REALITY:
Within the Hall of Possibilities are alcoves cut into the stone at regular intervals, these are the Nodes of Reality. The function of the Nodes is not well understood. They are thought to be a Minor Defense of the Hall and are invoked when ones gains access to the HP. Some scholars, like Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR of the University of Dee, speculate that one’s true love or one’s greatest enemy emerge from the Nodes and serve as a passive distraction to those entering the HP.

THE SHADOW TECH GODDESS:
Possibly the least understood facet to the Hall of Mirrors is the entity known as the Shadow tech Goddess. She inhabits the right-hand portion of the Hall of Possibilities and is meant to destroy any attempting to pass through the HP. She is like a coiled-up trap, waiting to strike. There is no known method of defeating her, though it has been speculated that discovering her true identity disarms her to some extent. Occasionally she has been known to continue on out of the Hall of Mundane and destroy everything she encounters, making her a Destroyer of Universes as well. She had been known to become interested in certain individuals and draw them to her–her reasoning behind this is unknown. She is said to wear a helmet completely covering her face and a robe of living Shadow tech.

The Hall of Mirrors appears in LoE Book 8, “The Shadow tech Goddess”, due out February 2014 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Ewelina Dolzycka, Fantasio, and Eve Ventrue

StG: Epochs of Time

December 10, 2013

The history of the peoples making up the modern-day League is an extensive one, going back almost a million years into the cloudy veil of the ancient past. The great bulk of most of that history is lost to the ages, it is a difficult task to remember the past just a few years old, much less a million.

The planet Eng was home to the League in the DX Time Epoch (Carol Phillips)

The planet Eng was home to the League in the DX Time Epoch (Carol Phillips)

The Sisterhood of Light, as prime historians of the League, maintain a narrative of those many years past. Per their accounting of history, the League has been a vagabond people for the bulk of their existence, drifting across the cosmos in servitude to their masters, the eponymous Elders–25 beings of colossal power. The peoples of the League served the Elders, did their bidding, fought their battles and scouted out food for them. The Sisters have broken down the history of the League into six distinct sections, or Epochs of Time. Each Epoch details a different homeworld which housed the Old League for a time and a significant event that occurred.

The Sisterhood of Light and the Elders drove the League across the cosmos in the early days (Eve Ventrue)

The Sisterhood of Light and the Elders drove the League across the cosmos in the early days (Eve Ventrue)

FORCED MIGRATION: The 25 Elders fed upon starlight and could only remain in a certain area for so long before the need to seek new sources of food forced them to move on. The League scouted the starways, looking for suitable places for them to feed, and, once a location was discovered, they would up stakes and migrate across the cosmos leaving everything they had behind.

NOTE–None of the previous League home worlds are currently known, other than what the Sisters have written in their histories. The stellar locations of these fabled places are lost, though various scholars vigorously seek them.

All years measured in Kanan Standard.

AX EPOCH–The Beginning: The Sisterhood tells on an ancient place called Earth where the peoples of the League originated from. Some say the eclectic fashions of the League, the languages they speak, and a smattering of other traditions are hold-overs from mythical long lost Earth. The Sisters recount that the Elders took the peoples of the League from Earth and journeyed with them across the heavens to a place called Lemmuria where they served the Elders for 200,000 years.

BX EPOCH–The Age of Riches: The Elders journey to the fabled world of Emmira to begin the BX Epoch. The Sisters recount that Emmira was a paradise and the League matured and grew in its light. The Sisters as a sect first formed on Emmira. They remained there for 90,000 years.

CX EPOCH–The Age of Youth and Health: After Emmira was Cammara, a place of towering clouds and cities in the sky. While on Cammara, the Elders rewarded their League servants and engineered out the ravages of age and sickness, essentially making them young throughout their lives. It is rumored that the Elders also made them immortal as well, though the Sisters dispute that assertion. Darker texts talk of the Gods of Cammara, the people who live forever guarding the gateways of the Universe and the oceans of the dead. The League remained on Cammara for 157,000 years.

The Monama peoples of southern Kana are not Old League--they are indigenous to Kana and were incorporated into the League in the EX Epoch.

The Monama peoples of southern Kana are not Old League–they are indigenous to Kana and were incorporated into the League in the EX Epoch.

DX EPOCH–The Weakening of the Elders: After Cammara was Eng, a cold and somewhat hostile place. There, the Elders grew weak and sick, seeing their time coming to an end. One Eng, the Elders once again attempted to bio-engineer the League, this time with the alien Haitathe race plucked from an unknown world. Their goal was to create a larger, stronger League Elder. While on Eng, the peoples of the League spilt into the Seven Tribes that exist today. An Eighth Tribe was said to have existed and been banished by the Sisters for chaotic behavior. The Old League shivered on Eng for 188,000 years.

EX EPOCH: The End of the Elders, coming of the Xaphans: After hostile Eng came golden Kana. Here the Elders died and passed into lore. With their passing, the League was lost and without guidance. The Seven tribes fought against each other and the Haitathe hoards feasted on their flesh. The Sisters managed to calm the League, to focus it, forging the roots of the modern star-faring League.

Several millennia after the passing of the Elder, the Xaphans came. The Xaphans were creatures similar to the Elders, though they were cruel and bizarre, demanding sacrifice and death. The League vowed to fight the Xaphans and thwart them.

The EX Epoch lasted 145,000 years.

Princess Marilith of Xapndarr--a wild, uncivilized member of Xaphan royalty, ever at odds with the League (Carol Phillips)

Princess Marilith of Xandarr–a wild, uncivilized member of Xaphan royalty, ever at odds with the League (Carol Phillips)

AX EPOCH: The Great Betrayal and the Modern League: In the Great Betrayal, 20 Households abandoned the League and went to the Xaphans, becoming their servants. The Sisters decided to end the EX Epoch and start again with the second AX Epoch. The years have seen much strife with the League pitted against the Xaphans, constantly engaged in warfare. Still, in the AX Epoch, the peoples of the League, and the Xaphans as well, have blossomed as a collective entity, growing and finding their own way. On Kana and the surrounding League worlds, they have built a home at long last.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue, Carol Phillips

One of the more confusing aspects of the League of Elder concerns age and the process of aging. How do people age in the League? Why don’t the characters get old? How long do they live? Are they Immortal??

Let’s take a look.

Captain Davage and Countess Sygillis, bot over 100 (Eve Ventrue)

Captain Davage and Countess Sygillis, both over 100 years old (Eve Ventrue)

CONCERNING AGE:
A little history. Way back in the CX Time Epoch is when the people who would one day become the League were given the Gift of Youth and Health. The 25 god-like Elders, whom they faithfully served, decided to reward their loyal servants and engineered the ravages of old age and infirmity out of them. The effects of this engineering essentially granted them the energy of youth throughout their lives and disease became a thing of the past, such that knowledge of the medical arts was no longer considered necessary and was therefore lost to the ages, not to be rediscovered until the EX Time Epoch by the Hospitalers.

Here are a few facts:

The average Elder (or Leaguer) lives to be 220 years old. For example, Captain Davage is about 120 years old, while his wife, Countess Sygillis, is well over 200, though her exact age is unknown.

THE PUFFIES and TWEENERS:
One of the side-effects of their condition is a very malformed and somewhat grotesque youth. Children 15 and under are often rather malformed and puffy in appearance. Those with the Gifts of the Mind suffer from it the most, while the Browns hardly have it at all. Lady Kilos of Blanchefort is a well-known sufferer of The Puffies, having it well into her twenties, while her elder brother, Lord Kabyl, never had it at all. The Puffies normally clear up by their mid-20’s.

A-Ram and Alesta (Eve Ventrue)

A-Ram and Alesta (Eve Ventrue)

From the time an Elder child reaches their 20’s until their early 30’s, they’re known as Tweeners and develop into full maturity. After that, they remain unchanged in appearance until their death. For example, Lord A-Ram is in his 40’s, while his fiancée, Lady Alesta of Dare , is 152 years old, however, looking at them side-by-side, one couldn’t determine their difference in age.

THE LENTICONS:
There are some in the League who, through a malady of the flesh, grow old and only live to be about 100. They are known as Lenticons and are generally considered products of bad breeding. The Esther House of Milke is known to be thusly afflicted.

Monamas, like Lady Sammidoran, are not engineered to remain young, and age and diminish as they get older. (Eve Ventrue)

Monamas, like Lady Sammidoran, are not engineered to remain young, and age normally as they get older. (Eve Ventrue)

Various indigenous Leaguers, such as the Monama peoples of Kana and the Females of Carina 7 do not have the Gift of Youth and Health and age normally.

THE TIME OF GOODBYES
One severe drawback of their perpetually young bodies is that the Leaguers are never quite certain when they will die. Death strikes without warning once a certain age has been passed. A usual tradition is for people turning 220 to perform the Time of Goodbyes ritual to get their affairs in order and bid their loved ones farewell, just in case they die in the night. Lady Poe of Blanchefort is well past her Time of Goodbyes, her long life possibly due to her status as a Shadow tech Female (see below).

IMMORTALITY:
It has been long suspected that the Elders not only made the Leaguers young and healthy, they made them immortal as well. The Hertogs, a group of disaffected scholars and detractors of the Sisterhood of Light, often make that claim. They maintain that the Sisters are actually doing something behind the scenes to suppress their immortality. That argument has yet to be fully proved. The Hertogs make it their business to track down those they believe are Immortals and collect them, so to speak. Their code-name for a suspected Immortal is: Rundlepharge. The Xaphan tyrant Queen Ghome of Trimble is a suspected Immortal.

Immortality aside, there are certain variables which appear to grant certain Leaguers exceptional long life. Shadow tech females, such as Sygillis of Blanchefort, are known to live to incredible old age, unchanged with time. Additionally, proximity to Elder-tech and with alien power sources are said to expand one’s life. The Xaphan House of Burgon, the Court of George in particular, often engage in the practice of cannibalism, which they claim also expands life.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue

ATD: Places–Bazz

January 18, 2013

In LoE Book VII, Against the Druries, the destination of Paymaster Stenstrom and his friends, Private Taara and Lord A-Ram is the planet Bazz.

Let’s learn a little bit more about Bazz.

BazzBazz, like many League worlds, was terriformed from a lifeless body to a fully functioning ecosphere in 744ex, when the planet shed its technical designation (Nu-12Gamma) and was given the name Helios. The terraforming process took over two hundred years to complete, the planet rather stubbornly clinging to its lifeless primordial past. It is twelve stellar units from its parent star, Nu Torriander, or Ole’ Scrub as it is known on Onaris, its planetary sister-world. Nu Torriander is a blue super giant, and its habitable zone is much farther back than many systems supporting life. It also has a dwarf companion star known as Lil’ Whiteface.

Bazz is known for cold winters and hot, humid summers. Those hot summers dissuaded the Vith, the usual explorers in the League and normally the first to populate a new world, from settling it. Helios sat empty for nearly three hundred years. After the Great Betrayal on 000000AX, it was occupied by the House of Sorrander for a short time.

Eventually, Helios began attracting settlers, mostly tax exiles and other people looking to get lost. From the beginning, the settlers found themselves seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. It was believed that there was some sort of gas or nerve agent in the air causing the hallucinations, though nothing of the sort was found. Eventually the planet became known as Bazz, short for the Vith word for Bazzal, or “Nightmare” in the common tongue. The name “Bazz” was officially given to the planet in 000022AX. It’s capital city is Helios-Mason.

Bazz, unlike Kana, Onaris and Hoban, never developed a feudal Great-House system of governing. instead, it developed a pure democratic system. For centuries, the place was considered barbaric and rather Xaphan-like. Its name became a metaphor for being rude, crass, noisy, profane and generally lacking in proper manners. As of late, its exotic culture, spicy food and distinctive architecture have given the place a new standing in the League.

Some notable facts:

–All cities and villages on Bazz have two names. This tradition hails back to the antiquity of the planet.

–Likewise, Bazzers also have two names instead of just one as seen in the Great House system.

–Women on Bazz wear their hair with distinctive “sideburns” known as Mollucks indicating their marital status. Married women do not wear Mollucks.

–Currency on Bazz consists of a computerized monetary unit known as a “Credit” or “Cred”. Bazzers transact business using a “Cred Stick”.

–Bazz’ most popular hero in antiquity was Darius Jones, the “It ” man from the south.

–The Hospitalers on Bazz are known as “The Jones” in honor of Darius Jones.

–The symbol of Bazz is a ferocious bear-like beast known as a Gallian Torr, which is said to eat nothing but human flesh.

LoE Book VII: Against the Druries will be available February, 2013 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2013, Ren Garcia

There are many ruins dotting the landscape of Kana, especially in the northern continent of Vithland where the remnants of old manors and castles litter the landscape. Most are forlorn and ill-trodden places, overgrown and generally best left avoided. One notable exception is the Ruins of Caroline sitting in the green lands of Hala near the Straights of Elder under the eye of the Sisters’ lighthouse. The ruins of the fallen manor are frequently visited. Inns and pubs nearby do a brisk trade of those travelers seeking to visit them. The locals frequently go to the ruins and tend to the grass and keep the footing level so that visitors unfamiliar with the terrain won’t hurt themselves.

“The Ruins of Caroline” by Carol Phillips

The House of Caroline was a Great House of Hala stock. Like most Halas, the Carolines were simple farmers and tillers of the land. They were well-liked, generally followers in the complicated social scheme of Kana instead of pacesetters. They had many friends across Kana. Caroline Maidens were known to be very beautiful. The Carolines were known to be quite tall for Halas, taller even than the Vith. The Sisterhood of Light diagnosed them with the early onset of Giantism.

The Carolines were one of twenty-five Great Houses to flee the League during the Great Betrayal in 000000AX and become Xaphans. Most of the other fleeing Houses were mal-contents and rabble-rousers: The Burgons, the Zary and Trimbles. The Carolines, however, were content league citizens–it was the House of Zary, a rather wayward House, that cooerced the Carolines to leave the League with them. So, broken-hearted, the Carolines boarded their ships and left their beloved manor by the sea behind.

The Carolines wandered the empty passes of Xaphan space for months. They were raided by several other Houses, including the House of Zary, who were starving in their transports. In danger of becoming extinct, the Carolines put out a distress call, which was answered by the League vessel Victor. With the Victor’s help, the Carolines settled on a gray world in the Tu Mervolin system.

There, the Carolines thrived, becoming Xaphans (technically, enemies of the League). The Carolines, however, always maintained friendly relations with the League and, during the Battle of Mirendra I, provided safe harbor for damaged League vessels, saving many lives. For their part in the battle, the Sisterhood of Light reinstated the House of Caroline’s familial patent in 003152AX, making them dual League/Xaphan citizens.

The abandoned Caroline Manor fell into ruins over the centuries, the grand estate tumbling down and blackening. The Lords of Hala went to the Sisters and demanded they be permitted to raze what was left of the manor and rebuild a new House there. Their request was denied and Caroline remained a ruin.

A Lady in the Ruins

6 ft 7 Melazarr of Caroline ended up in the Ruins a record 59 times (painting by Eve Ventrue)

An interesting legend and fad arose over the years regarding the Ruins of Caroline … as time and time again, the ruins were not completely abandoned.

The House of Caroline’s LosCapricos weapon is a strange garter-belt-like device called the VERY MARY. The VERY MARY, when worn by a Caroline maiden, will spirit her away from danger and return her to her ancestral holdings: the Ruins of Caroline near the sea in Kana. Over the centuries, Caroline maidens grew taller and taller and became more and more adventurous. Often times they found themselves in mortal peril, and many times they found themselves standing alone in the ruins under the Kanan moonlight. In 000272AX, Eon of Caroline was about to be sacrificed in Burgon and was saved by her VERY MARY. She wandered the ruins and, driven by cold and hunger, made her way into the countryside to locate shelter. She was met by Zal of Thompson, a lord from a nearby Great House and was welcomed into their home. Soon, Zal and Eon fell in love and he made her his lady. Eon was well-liked, and when word of how she arrived on Kana got out, gentlemen seeking a fine bride began venturing out into the ruins, hoping to encounter a Caroline maiden from nowhere as Zal had done.

The fad became popular and gentlemen from all over Kana and elsewhere flocked to Hala to take their turn sitting in the ruins under the moonlight. They brought with them flowers and candies, and gifts of jewelry. They wrote heartfelt letters and placed them by a remnant of masonry that became known as the Heartstone. The fad might have faded, as many often do, however, occasionally the gentlemen’s efforts were rewarded with success and the pratice perpetuated itself, eventully becoming a cottage industry in the region.

Carofabs

As with all things, there were those who sought to take advantage of such a quaint fad and turn it to their own ends. Such was the Carofab: a local lady who disguised herself as a Caroline. Kanan ladies became rather jealous of all those eligible men going to Caroline to seek romance. They developed a rather sophisticated spy network so that they could know exactly who was going to be sitting in the ruins and when. When a desired gentleman was slated to be out there, Kanan ladies hoping to catch his eye would dress themselves up as a Caroline and meet him there. Lady Constance of Belmont-South Tyrol did just such a thing and won a husband for her efforts.

copyright 2012 Ren Garcia

A key component in World Building, in my opinion, is creating the mundane things–the small stuff that makes people who they are. In creating a sci-fi fantasy world, where everything is made-up, possibly new and rather alien, adding in the mundane is key to drawing your readers in and making them feel at home in your unreal world. You want your readers to be comfortable. You want them to stay awhile.

Traditions and customs play heavily into that notion. A regions’ customs and various traditions set it apart from others, make it unique, make it real.

"Carahil" by Carl Phillips

On the planet Xandarr, for example, I created the tradition of children writing letters to Carahil. Carahil is Xandarr’s patron god, and he saved the planet from destruction when the Black Hats wanted to wipe it out. They honor him with numerous statues carved all over the planet, particularly in a lush park by the River Torr called 1000 Carahil Park–aptly named as there’s 1000 large and small statues of him rolling around.

In the time since Carahil saved Xandarr, a tradition sprang up where children from all over the planet write Carahil little notes, sort like letters to Santa, asking him for this and that. Some ask him for material things that they’d like to have, others beg for help of some sort, and others just need a friendly shoulder to cry on. They then leave the notes they’ve made at the base of one of his statues tucked in the flippers and hope he hears them. Many times, he does. Carahil is an interactive, approachable little god.

"Letter to Carahil" by Kailey Hedman

It’s a cute tradition, just a splash of color on the page and only takes a few words to lay out, but it helps immeasurably in making the people of Xandarr, who are just figments of my imagination, seem real. A tradition of leaving notes by a god’s statue helps define who these people are, what they want, and what they hope for out of life.

For Book IV, The Machine, I wanted an example of a Letter to Carahil to place into the interior of the book, and I wanted a real “kid” to draw it to make it authentic. So I commissioned four-year old Kailey Hedman, daughter of one my regular artists, Justine Marie Hedman to do the job, and here’s the result–a real live letter to Carahil from a real, live kid.

I wonder if he’s heard it.

Bowl Naked

RG