Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Nightly Travellers

"We had followed them into the valley, and found there an obstacle course of sorts, made of Areal thresholds. Apparently they train to leave, make, and enter them as a sport - it's no wonder we were never able to catch them."
— Rastann, guard
There are orders aside the speakers that look for wisdom and truth. The Nightly Travellers believe it can be found in the Area, and live almost exclusively there. As the nature of the Area makes reconnaissance nearly impossible, nobody knows what they are doing there, where they camp or live, and where they will come out. Also, since paths are shorter in the Area, they can travel vast distances very quickly, and have thus always eluded capture.
"I will take your daughter with me. She shall learn to weave, spin, and dye the mountainsides and shallow seas."
— Night Traveller Hmakinga
The Nightly Travellers are not the friendly helpers they claim they are. They steal children, to raise them in the Area. People staying within the Area for long often become strange and incomprehensible, and nobody knows what this upbringing does to the children.
When Nightly Travellers leave the Area, they create astonishing, intricate Areal relics of strange effects, and rulers become worried when they are sighted.

Artists' notes
There are a whole lot of other, friendlier orders with altruistic goals, but describing the freakish, strange orders with intransparent agendas is fun. The others will get their time as well, of course. Meeting a Nightly Traveller is like the opening scene of an urban fantasy novel, when you see a modern mage do something incredible with casual ease.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Ghabnah and Turachgekhan

The speakers have entirely opposite (but to the voiceless, indistinguishable) plans how to achieve understanding of the world. Wizards believe that the world will make sense only as a whole, while mages seek to understand each detail first, then assemble them all. Both ways have been codified early in history by the greatest thinkers of their time, who are today's idols of their respective beliefs, Ghabnah and Turachgekhan.

Ghabnah, who is thought to have been a beja mage, wrote the first magical tome collecting the spells strung together from the words of power. This First Book of Magic, or Ghabnah's Book, also contains the principles mages should follow. It is constantly being revised and modernized, and there are different interpretations of her thoughts.

"Look at any one thing and find that it is made of parts. Learn their workings - learn every thing's workings, and you may finally understand the world's workings as well."
— Ghabnah

Wizards follow the teachings of Turachgekhan, a rhu'khach sage, who said that the world is wondrous and whole, and can be only understood if one dares to broaden one's mind to encompass it. Today, wizards are acknowledged as skilled holistic thinkers. Each spell is invented at the time it is cast and has widespread effects.

"Look at how marvelous the world is intertwined, and everything inseparable from everything else. We know the Great Spirit is at the foundation of it all, but we only know this, we do not grasp it - and when we finally do, I believe it will be most grand."
— Turachgekhan

Neither Ghabnah nor Turachgekhan said anything about hating on the other half of the human supernaturals. Some very optimistic philosophers even believe in unification of both schools. The fact however remains that in six millenia, no-one has learned both the way of the mages and wizards.

Artists' notes
There had to be idols among the speakers, and the most important idols would of course be the founders of their way of life. There's much to say about speakers, spells, and the philosophies. It's sometimes thought that maybe spells are "poisonous", because it's only after casting their first spell that speakers are set in one way.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017


Of the greater predators in the great green forest of Gdera, suras are probably the largest - animals that are bigger still usually are herbivores. Suras are six meters long without the tail, and have a powerful jaw. Their thick, saggy, blue-grey skin has a small mane of greenish brown fur. Hunting sura is dangerous and needs well-trained surabans to accompany the hunters; but several parts are considered delicacies, and the skin is a great trophy.
Suras are perfectly aware of their place at the top of the food chain, and are often impolite to travellers by striding into camps, taking food and scaring pets. But, suras will not usually openly seek trouble, and the greatforesters have taken to wearing sura bells; small bundles of bells worn at the ankle, to announce themselves to the predators and make them take a different route. Suras are true to their homeland and easy to expect.

"Our nearest neighbours exiled their head hunter last year. It turned out that she had not, as she claimed, hunted and killed the sura alone, whose skin she wore; but that she had bought it from nomad traders. Sentries say she made a hut up on the fallen sky fig; we tell the children to stay away from her."
— Haamhile, Greatforester

Artists' notes
Suras aren't even that important (but how can any animal be, when there are so many), they are mostly the reason for a local custom of wearing bells to make suras go elsewhere. I do believe however, that some animals will quickly learn that bells in the forest mean food, toys, and easy prey. And the choice between meeting a sura, and being pestered by nureewings may just go the way of not wearing bells; at least suras don't attack without provocation.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Art on deviantArt: Red forest, burrmo, Vrebin

The recently posted Standing Stones of Vrebin (see the article here) are now on dA as well, as are a concept of the red forest - ever so delightful to plan a poisonous forest - and the fierce burrmo (who also already made an appearance here). And last but not least, a repaint of the Watching Tree, an older image showing the Area.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Lonely Queen, Dil-tona

Perhaps one of the most dreaded people alive, Queen Dil-tona rules in western Lozir. She is known for her elaborate curses. The issue with that is, of course, that curses fall back on the curser to some degree, and the sheer amount of curses muttered by the queen is enough to make anyone else snap. That she still seems more or less sane is puzzling to experts of the field. It is unknown from whence she came, and even how exactly she came by the throne is forgotten, although most genealogists agree she wasn't a child of the former king. They say Dil-tona is a Dohl Churon, which might account for her great supernatural powers.

"My aunt came from only the outer fringes of Dil-tona's realm, and still was caught up in a curse that made her lose words all the time, and that took almost a year to get rid of. She hasn't set foot in Lozir since."
— Grawada Imnirun, merchant

The realm of Dil-tona is not closed to outsiders but few travel there, and few natives leave - not all the neighbouring lands accept them either, because they're afraid of what the refugees might carry. Curse-carrying is unusual and difficult, but the queen masters even that almost effortlessly, feeding the fears.
Nevertheless, the queen is beautiful, and as love goes, some men with heart feel they could save the queen - or the land - by softening Dil-tona. None have succeeded, and by now the row of wooers' graves is almost longer than the line of the wooers themselves.

"Who knows how many of the curses of the Empty Lands trace back to the Lonely Queen. One can only hope the stories about her finding love and being cured by it are true, and that someone endures to give it to her."
— Sraminar, Lozirian noble

Artists' notes
Creepy rulers, cursed somehow, who can only be swayed by true love, or the famous true love's kiss, is a classic in fairy-tales, and as such has of course found its way into Genius Loci. I won't tell if that can actually turn Dil-tona from a bloodthirsty lunatic into a lovable woman. But it would be nice if being loved could do anything, wouldn't it?
The sketch is a design sketch, and I'm not set on it yet. Making an atmospheric illustration for Dil-Tona is of course mandatory, but it'll have to wait since it's been so long since my last article here.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Spirit lanterns

Nature spirits guarantee good health for their homestead, which is most interesting for plants and the people who care for those. A lantern is supposed to attract tiny spirits by burning incense; the then occupied lantern can, very carefully, be taken away and the spirit offered a new home in a plant of choice. Especially plants grown indoors or in greenhouses, or in otherwise inaccessible places, can lack a spirit which would normally turn up eventually.
Larger spirits are not as impressed by lanterns, unless there are many, but apparently they still notice them.

"Those blasted children stole my lanterns again. My crop of famkafeathers will be mediocre at best - but the wild rurgra trees ot the end of the street are just brimming with spirits. They will bear excellent fruit this year, I'm sure."
— Revchira, greenhouse owner
Lanterns are regionally different but often playfully designed to appeal to spirits, and are filled with carefully chosen incense, containing bits of the plant the lantern-owner wishes to become home to a spirit. Some also have windchimes, or are bird-shaped to glide down through hopefully spirit-inhabited spaces.

Artists' notes
These were a random bit in a drawing once, but the idea was pretty. Mostly spirits will just arrive one day, but in the middle of the desert or winter-dark lands, a little help is appreciated. Great Forest children conduct runs, snatching up an many lanterns as they can, and watch how many spirits come to see them. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


A mindsmith is someone whose job it is to forge a mind into something less raw. The smiths themselves often laugh at that description, but the name stuck with folks. They are a proper profession - unlike voices, who have a calling - and are taught in small schools. Their methods range from philosophical debate, to torture-like practices best described as brainwashing, to meticulous mental exercises, and each only takes on one pupil at a time. Former voices may take this profession, and all plasmats are seen as mindsmiths.

"It's true that Lady Etto was one of the rebel leaders - she had started the capital's fires. When the mindsmiths returned her some years after her capture, they advised us to not waste her skills. She's been invaluable in the city's protection, and the murder attempts on her become fewer every year."
— Djigferra Solmor, citizen
Mindsmiths are often called upon to educate someone for a difficult position. They are found in royal households, teach diplomats or lunatics, but are also employed to "fix" criminals who seem utterly unwilling to behave. No pupil of theirs ever complained about the treatment, and all agree that it was a strenuous but worthwhile experience. Nobody taught by a mindsmith has not risen to greatness.
Known pupils are the Crowned Aslahenead of Brighthold, or Digaëner from the Summerstar Isles. Among the most famous mindsmiths are the plasmat Kortife of Echamien, and Avaqui Der, who teaches in Gdera.
"I can't complain about the captain's ways, but she sure doesn't seem human - she's nigh-infallible, barely rests, always has an answer, and iron-clad principles. As long as we're on the same side, I feel invincible beside her."
— Quahna, dust sailor

Artists' notes
The danger of brainwashing cannot be overestimated. And it is so easily done. In fantasy however, I can downplay dangers, and reap the benefits of one-on-one teaching with no other goal than perfection of a person. Mindsmiths are the legendary teachers one finds so delightfully often in Asian tales. I don't even want to know what they do with fake mindsmiths, but it can't be good.