Tuesday 30 December 2014

Signs and Marks

"The giant went towards the village and began to drag his feet. We climbed the cliff of Morning Gorge to see, and found he was encircling the entire settlement in signs, herds and all."
— Kell Nor Haseban, villager 
 Marks protect against evil or unwanted supernatural matters. The most common examples are protective circles against dead spirits and marks against placespirits, but they can also influence mana flow and aspectation.
There are two alphabets. The First Signs were discovered in the first age, soon after the Rise of Light, and are lavish, graphical patterns. The second are the Wild Marks, whose discovery is lost in history; they are shapes of primeval strength. Both alphabets work like natural laws, not cultural endeavours, and were not invented, but discovered. Thus, while First Signs have been in use for millenia and are widely understood, every now and then new Wild Marks can still be found.

"When we were small, we once changed the fifth sign of our least favourite aunt's bedroom protection on one of her dreaded visits... she had to be kept in bonds for three weeks after she gravely injured our grandfather, until a collector came to free her from possession. So I had the signs in my own house laid in steel."
— Marligan, farmer
Unfortunately, signs cannot be made permanent. While placeholders help redrawing signs correctly, they are powerless without proper ritual. Placeholders aid against malevolent or accidental changes, and important signs are laid in steel and stone. There are other limitations to signs; they must be made on stable ground and cannot be drawn on carpets or even ships; they aid but don't offer full protection unless in the most extensive versions.
Aside from professional markmakers, speakers, collectors, and voices make heavy use of signs.

Artist's notes
This article was equally difficult to write as the one about speakers, there are so many details to signs and markmaking. Inventing the alphabets graphically took much preparation and for a long time I wasn't sure if they would be put down at all, but I realized that I wanted to describe them better and use them in paintings sooner or later. They might not be final like this, but for now I'm rather happy with their designs. 

Saturday 20 December 2014

Family and relations

  • Family is everyone related through blood, and their spouses (grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, nephews and nieces, children, grandchildren; but not cousins, or the own spouse's siblings). For longlived species, family trees can become insanely large; states with such populations feature laws that put a sensible stop to responsibility for family members.
  • Clan is the family plus all additional blood relations, and members of the household; relations by marriage, adopted children, and permanent guests.
  • A tribe is all clans related by blood or law, the families and clans of all own clan members and their households.
  • The people is all tribes that feel connected by culture, or are considered related by outsiders.

The importance of the communities differs. Settled nomads emphasize family and people, while travelling nomads consider the clan most important. In unsure times and regions every alliance is defended with teeth and claws, in safe times bonds are given up easier.
"I really don't see how I'm obliged to help the thrice-damned Redwater Walkers when we're only related by a distant cousin's adopted daughter's second husband. If we go on like that, I'd be related to half of Lozir, for crying out loud."
— Davoi, clan elder


It's unusual to leave orphans on the streets. Most often they will be adopted by parents of their own species, but that's not a law. Garren will also call their beja parents mother and father and not fuss.
Dwarves are relatively quickly in new homes, even if they need a lot of food, as the timespan they can stay alone at young age is less than half a year, and the damage is harder to heal. Raganaj are harder to house; their needs are great, their growth requires new clothes often, and they always bring a pet, even if only in teenage years. Elves are almost never taken up when the adoptive parents' relationship isn't perfectly fine, there's always the hint it might be a bastard, and their many peculiarities make elves hard to live with (elves are more prone to suffer from prejudice anyway than others).
Speaker children are never alone for long; their group will take them in, if no-one else will.
"Sewing new clothes for Samakadi always was like tentmaking, with her being my height at age six, and I haven't been able to carry her after her third birthday. But she is 'our' daughter, and I could not imagine my life without her."
— Ogrinae Kanraha, dwarf

Artists' notes
There are many fine details to living together that are fun to consider when creating a multi-species world. As there are very few cultures with few or only one species, I had to think about how people marry, how they handle children, if there are more halfbloods than truebloods, what society thinks of halfbreeds, and so on. The main thing though is, all parents love their children regardless of how they came by them, and raganaj parents will love their garren children just as much as their own blood, and this simple notion fixes most problems. Adding that racial prejudice is considered a mental illness, halfbloods may not be many (you'll probably marry so you can have children) but aren't outcasts either. Halfbloods will be detailed in their own article.

Wednesday 10 December 2014


"If any of my orla pups turns out to be half as good a tracker as Senbror's Gray, I'll make him the father of all my following breeds. Although, their colouring could be more distinct."
— Krinor, orla breeder

Orlas are large warmblooded reptiles, about a meter and forty long including the tail. Their skin is blue with brown stripes; the netorla breed has a netlike pattern, the waterorla breed is greyish blue with a pale belly. All orlas have a small collar and a spiky crest on the head and shoulders. Orlas are fantastic companions for hunting, they're flexible enough to fit into most burrows, they can swim, run, and climb, and so it doesn't matter that they're too quickly fatigued to run down prey. They're friendly and happy to learn, and their favourite treat are the heads of dried amfas. Orlas are quite popular pets, and much friendlier and easier to keep, breed, and train than gubras.
The most known orlas - aside from their queen Asgaan - are the two companions of the wizard Senbror, creator of the famous collar, Gray and Catcher, who are the stuff of legend, and it's the ultimate goal of any breeder to get just one orla like either of those two.

Artists' notes
I imagine orlas to be the frolicking happy kind of companion animal, like the mount of Obi-Wan in Star Wars Episode III, similar to border collies. I've always liked reptiles and have seen them to be quite amiable sometimes, being happy to be scratched and taken care of, and wanted orlas to be just like that. 

Wednesday 3 December 2014


"Linguists will thank Nuralk forever to have composed poems that can be easily translated into any dialect or language. Beauty and rhyme make it so much easier to remember grammatical rules."
— Etrienne, historian
Languages differ by country. Most people speak dialects of their neighbours, so while travelling, communication is manageable, becoming more difficult with distance. Metropoles like Gamahan are linguistic beacons, with neighbouring cultures speaking their dialect; an educated person knowing a few large cities' dialects can make their way easily.
"One might feel less tricked by the dustship traders if they'd bother to speak comprehensibly. I reckon they could if they wanted, but foreign dialects make the trade more interesting and buyers more willing to let things slide."
— Quoyoh Virn, merchant
The ancient language Sorit is versatile and at times elusive; it's the language of scholars and the elementarians. It is the base of today's languages, and remains visible in names (for example, one translation of Gamahan means "circled land"). The suffix "-han" in country names means "land" and is preceded by the largest tribe's name.
The rhu'khach spoke A'ruhs; the rich calligraphies can be seen on their remaining monuments. Kidin, the slow language of the mountains, trees, and the ocean, is mainly interesting to speakers. Many bards and poets also speak older languages.

Artists' notes
I was long undecided about languages in Genius Loci. They're a knack of mine, but many languages make things confusing and adventures tedious. The lingua franca approach of many fantasy worlds was too simple, too, differing only by race. One language (more or less) that is splintered into many dialects, that can at times be barely comprehensible, seems a good compromise to me. I also spent some time writing down pronounciation.
The picture belongs to Issue #4 of Worldscapes magazine.