Dalon: The Choosing Grounds

Dalon is on its most basic level the name for the moon. More specifically, it’s the name of the realm that lies upon the moon. Dalon, meaning the Choosing Grounds, is the home of the goddess Geila and the realm of the dead.

In the early days of the world, Geila departed from the earthly realms out of contempt for her neighbors. She took up with her a turtle, which she turned into the realm of Dalon. The turtle now swims over the world, constantly rolling about with Geila residing inside of it. The new moon is the turle’s underbelly while the full moon is the polished surface of its shell.

Dalon is known as the realm of the dead, but it is not the final resting place of the dead, nor do the dead immediately awaken upon it. The dead are conscious exactly when they leave their bodies, and they in turn wander until they are found by a mountain lion. Mountain Lions, being the favored animal of Geila and thus her chosen psychopomps (ferriers of the dead), lead the dead to mountain tops where they then are taken up to the moon. On the moon, Geila then judges the dead and informs them of what they might be reincarnated as. The spirit is then given a full month to decide from the options it is given and then allowed to depart into its new life.

This cycle lines up very specifically with the lunar month. The new moon, Dalon’s underbelly, is the entrance to the realm and thus spirits are allowed to ascend to the realm of Dalon when the dark side of the moon is visible. In turn, the light side of the moon, Dalon’s shell, is when spirits may descend to their next life in the cycle. As a result, the full moon is both loved and feared for bringing life into the world while simultaneously trapping ghosts upon the earth.

Needless to say, Dalon did not originate as the realm of the dead. It took on this role in the aftermath of Reho tearing a hole in the dome of the world. After the Wasp Mother and Iwau crawled out of the rift, water and otherworldly energy also was pouring through. Reho was naturally charged with plugging up the hole, which he did remarkably well. However, there did come a time shortly afterward that the gods realized an issue with this plan. There was now far more water and energy in the world than before, too much for it to support. Therefore, Geila took it upon herself to carry the rift around with her in the turtle of the moon. She would open the rift at times to either force the water on the earth to return to the realms beyond or to allow more water to return as rain when she took too much.

This cycle of water eventually drew ghosts to her realm, who’s vaporous bodies often got taken along for the ride. After going through the ordeal for enough time, Geila decided to just become the goddess of death and take care of all these things formally.

Finally, it is of note that, though Geila does pass judgement and dole out new lives to spirits accordingly, there are no forms of reincarnation that are thought to be intrinsically bad. The manner in which Geila judges the deeds of a person’s life is by cataloguing them as being of one of the five elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. A human spirit who is particularly strong in one element risks imbalance and harm to the world around it, so Geila selects option for the soul that would encourage taking on qualities of another element. I.e. someone who is highly excitable and frivolous  (both seen as belonging to the wood element) might be reincarnated into a family of merchants or banker (both professions of the metal element) in order to teach discipline and self-control.

Aegir: A Commentary

In the story of Across the Kolgan Sea, Aegir, the god of the sea, went through many stages of evolution. In the very beginning of writing AKS, I didn’t give very much thought to the god beyond the simple need for a sea god. AKS’s original idea was to be a Norse version of the Oddessy, which naturally meant that I needed a Viking equivalent to the god Poseidon.

As for his motive, I must admit that there was a degree of misrepresentation. He was designed for AKS in my early years of studying Norse Mythology, so he consequently was simplified to his role as the final destination of people who drown, which naturally lead to the sea dwelling folk of Shaloor fearing him. However, this was later supplemented with his more detailed role as a host. His presentation in the source mythos goes to show that he was on mostly friendly terms with the gods, and often even held feasts in their honor.

Such a stark contrast went to contradict his original depiction, so I decided that that would be a good way to add further differences between the Shaloor and Agrians by giving them two very different perspectives of the sea giant. Shaloor considering him a force of evil and the Agrians honoring him as a god of hospitality.

For those of you who have not heard any of what I’m talking about, you can read about it now by going and purchasing Across the Kolgan Sea.

Could be that, OR…

I stumbled across this one video done by Gametheory that seems rather interesting. To summarize the point that Mat Pat is making, super high end games are showing steep declines in popularity while indie games are on the rise. He then goes on to point out the parallels between the gaming industry and art trends in general, and thus concludes that the change is due to the natural desire for creativity.

Mat Pat’s video is very well thought out, and I tend to agree with him save for an extra point that he seems to have overlooked. Allow me to explain this by continuing the art analogies made in the source video. Suppose, for a moment, that the Mona Lisa were drawn in a burqua, or that The Last Supper represented the disciples with a large swath of blacks, women, and transgenders in their ranks. Now imagine how the common audience would have reacted to these converged-copies. The people of that time would have outright rejected these, even if the works maintained the same level of detail and skill as their real-world counterparts.

The same basic thing is occurring in the gaming industry. All of the major gaming corporations, while they certainly possess superior graphics, also are forcing an agenda that the consumers do not predominantly want. Compare these giants again to indie gamers, who by definition can’t be a converged industry, and you find that the trend in ultimately brought upon by the content of major games not being appealing. In short, any form of art must do more than appeal to the eye in order to be praised, it must, if nothing else, appeal to the MINDS and sensibilities of its audience.

Snark-fest: Coupons

In general, coupons make an incredible amount of sense. For one thing, they encourage people to go into the store to save $1.50 on Lutefisk scented shampoo, then have the chance for getting the customer to make impulse buys like 100 yards of string, toenail clippers, a bird cage, a bowling ball, and a manual on Building Rudy-Goldberg Machines: For Dummies. To this extent, they’re a real world example of the story in If You give a Mouse a Cookie, only it works in favor of the giver.

Save-Now coupons, on the other hand, make no sense even in the deepest, darkest corner of the 5i-th dimension. The entire point of normal coupons is dismissed by simply sticking it to the side of the box. Only one works on a given item, so collecting them to use en masse makes no sense. On top of that, they often evade the notice of people, so their primary purpose in existence is lost. In effect, Save-Now coupons are IQ tests that give the people who fail them a special discount. Is it a coincidence that America’s average IQ has been going down while being surrounded by Save-Nows? I think SO.

The Never-Ending-Recipe: the Omelet

The following is a satire of cooking blogs:

OMG, the best omelette EVA!!! – by BlogMom#8373

Omelette.jpg

So, the CRAZIEST thing happened to me five days and 22 hours ago. At least, I think it was five days ago, I’m no good at keeping track at days, and I’m without a calendar at the moment (as I’ll tell you later).

So, me and my gal-pal were out walking our french poodles to the grooming salon, as was our habit at 5 in the morning. Both of our poodles are toy poodles, but they look absolutely nothing alike. Hers is a charchoaly kind of grey with a very tough build. Fun fact: did you know that poodles were originally bred to help fishers of all things? Crazy right? Yeah, my gal-pal say that hers came from a family of poodles that would dive under water to fetch coal for the soldiers in WW1 (which my youngest pronounces as “Wa-wa-wa.” So cute! :). My poodle, Peaches, comes from a very different line that was first owned by Marie Anntionette if you believe that. According to the legends, Peaches’ family was given to the queen of France just before the Reign of Terror. The peasants apparently hated the poodles also for being a symbol of the royalties oppression, so they actually had a guillotine built just for the poodles. Peaches family was placed on them first and they were all wiped out. I believe it, which makes Peaches just that more special. Here’s a picture of the little darlings:

Pug_Puppies

Some people give us odd looks when we talk about them. They must not understand the finer points of dogs.

Sew, by the time that we got to the pet salon, Peaches was starting to get a somewhat upset stomach. Billy Joe (that’s the name of our official poodle hairstylist [yes, that’s an actual specific title {yes, I just used brackets to put parentheses into parentheses (and I’ve run out of things to say in this)}]) gave Peaches some medicine to help her tummy-wummy. That didn’t help and Peaches chucked her little guts all over the floor.

Sue, looking at that wet pile of food chunks suspended in a yellow substance made me think of something: Man, could I go for an omelette. So here’s the omelet recipe that I’m actually going to continue later because I have to pick my kids up from Totally-Not-A-Once-A-Week-Public-School Homeschool Enrichment Program.

(To be continued)

Runa’s Mountain

Mountain roads are hard to climb, even if you made them yourself, especially. Nonetheless, my horse and I managed to push the cart all the way to our usual place. It was a level patch of mountain, pressed into featurelessness by constant footwork and tree trunks being rolled about.

Many people say that I’m a fool to harvest lumber this high up on the mountain, ‘dragons roost on the peaks’ as the wives’ tale goes. Dung-bread, that’s what I think of that! I’ve made ten two-week journeys up this mountain every year for twenty-seven years, never once did one of those glorified leather scraps flash down here to punish me. Still, the clouds were dark enough to make midday look light midnight, so I was still cautious. ‘Storm clouds are the nests of dragons,’ that was a tale I believed, having seen many a dragon’s body gliding through a rainstorm.

I unharnessed my horse and brought him to his stable, nothing more than a wood roof, a trough full of grain, and a post to tie him to. Then I grabbed my axe out of the cart and set to chopping down a tree. Not many trees, just one, that’s all I was willing to risk today in this weather.

White oak is plentiful in that area, and the wood is dense and strong. Both of those qualities make it useful for several purposes, but they also make it much harder to chop them down. The oak I found was about four yards away from my cabin, and two and three-quarter feet in diameter. Taking this one down would be difficult, but if I’m only going to fell one today, it might as well be a big one. I swung with broad strokes, each time with enough force to make me spin for two or three loops if I missed. Even still, it took me sixteen strokes just to get to the center of the tree. Cool drops started to appear on my forehead, not sweat, drips of rain. Refreshing though they were, my swings sped up because of them. The storm was about to strike, and I needed to be done.

Why do people say that the dragons, with their cute little shows of light, are the most deadly thing in a storm? I began to grumble Anyone who says that just doesn’t know the power of the rain. With a final stroke, the oak groaned and listed to the side. White washed out all other sights for a moment, and a rumbling from the sky talked over the tree’s death wail. With the tree toppled, the storm arrived in perfect timing, now I had to get to shelter.

My lodging was a simple place, four walls and a roof made of oak and clay, three hammocks, plus an altar on the north wall. I sat staring southward, eating the supper that I had packed and watching the downpour outside. That was my usual habit, but the streams of rainwater made that hard to do. Normally, I would face this way to enjoy the view and not look upon the three figures at the altar’s base.

The view was concealed by the rain and dark clouds, and the rivulets made me hurt more than the stone carvings. You see, one of those statues was me, the other two were my daughter and wife, both of whom I lost nine years ago to a flash flood on this very mountain. Some things still remind me of them, but I’ve learned to separate most of the mountain from what happened. This was my livelihood, and taking steel to parts of it gave me some sense of revenge.

Three more vines of lightning grew across the sky. Your creator and I have that much in common. I recalled the story of the dragons’ origins. According to the record keepers, the fire god, Rehol had a daughter beyond all beauty. He lost her, and was flung into a rage. He then made a whip out of leather and sound, and thrashed about at everything around him. Eventually, the whip broke and its remains became the dragons. We both bear the pain of grief. The one difference in our tales is that his child was eventually returned to him.

Lightning illuminated the earth once again, but this time, I saw something more than nature. There, just beyond a rock cleft, was a thirteen-year-old girl prancing about. She spun out of my gaze, but I was mystified by the impression that was left behind. “Lola?” I whispered the name of my daughter to myself. ‘Lola’, she was named after me, ‘Lumva.’ It had been so long since I had uttered that name. Forgetting about the danger of the storm, I slipped and slid as I followed the girl.

Next time I saw her, she was playing on a beam suspended by two cliffs. She danced carelessly, letting the rainfall drench her fern-green dress. Somehow, she was unaware, or unconcerned, of neither the roaring skies above her or the yawning chasm below her. I hid behind bush, observing her from a distance. The streak of brown in her black hair, the light patch on her right cheek, that full-force giggle, all of them belonged to my five-year-old girl all those years ago. I lost all control of myself and ran toward my child, shouting “Lola! Lola!”

Lola turned her head to look at me. That distraction proved costly, as her foot slipped and she tumbled off the log. I stopped right at the rocky edge, my skin turning pale as I watch the descent. After all of these years, I found Lola just see her die again. Maybe I would fall down next.

Thunder shouted again, light blinded me, and something magical happened through them. Before the twinkling, Lola was halfway down the pit. After it, she was at the bottom, alive. Naturally, she was breathing heavily and she sat down for a while.

Since she seemed safe, I returned to climbing down to her. What happened next left me frustrated. Out of holes in the bedrock crawled a pack of wolves. All drooled at Lola with intent to eat her. Why was fate toying with me? Watching my daughter die once was plenty. No, I couldn’t let that happen. I grabbed a coconut-sized stone from beside and leapt down to her rescue.

After regaining my stance, I launched that rock at the wolf nearest Lola. Before the rock struck but after the hound pounced, another bolt flew by. Perhaps it was the excitement, more likely some magic in the air, but everything seemed to move slower. The lightning was slow enough to see. It seemed to be one great tail with ridges and claws branching out randomly. Its scales were white with rims of violet. Clearly, this was not a mere vine of light, but a dragon. It wound toward the leaping wolf, clamping down with its jaws.

Everything moved so slowly that the wolf’s smoldering body took a minute to land. It took an hour for its allies to flee. One remained, clearly this one was the alpha, for it was so mad at the death of its vassal. Bearings its teeth, the alpha looked everywhere. Alpha didn’t know where the dragon went, for it turned invisible. Dragons can only be seen when they move, and they only move to kill.

One moment and the dragon became visible again. Another moment and it made three laps, leapt into the air, and swallowed the alpha whole. Yet another moment and he vanished again. My heart was pounding from the shock of the sight. Would this dragon soon lunge at me?

A scrapeing sound ruffled through the pit, Lola was rushing up the exit that the wolves ran through. Her footfalls were too loud, surely the dragon would chase her. Though I wanted to call after her, that would be foolish. I instead had to splash through the streams and puddles after her.

I managed to catch up to Lola, getting within 8 feet before the dragon struck. A pillar of light descended between us, issuing a wave of sound that knocked me on my back. After my sight returned to me, I looked up to see that Lola was still safe. She was looking back with her body half turned away and a smear of fear on her face. More thunder rumbled. Must have been that dragon, judging by how it came from between me and Lola.

Not knowing which way the dragon was, I spoke toward the heavens. “Dragon, I am Lumva, a humble logger. Many years ago, I lost my daughter on this mountain, and I now believe that this woman is her. Please, I beg that you return her.”

Nothing but silence responded. Lola, however, crooked her head as though someone were speaking to her. Every now and then, she would look at me with a frown, then whisper something over her shoulder. My blood sunk into my feet from the tension. Lola didn’t appear to be convinced I was her father, or at least she didn’t want to go with me.

She turned back to me, announcing the moment of truth. “Father,” a good start, “Runa has taken care of me for almost ten years now, please understand that. She’s told me about happened to me before that, and always tried to prepare me for this day. But now that the time has come, I can’t do it.” She looked away from me, “It would hurt me too much to leave her. Maybe a bit of the dragon’s heart has rubbed off on me. Forgive me, but that is my decision.”

At first, I felt like I could collapse, then an owl of wisdom spoke to me. “Lola, if that is the name you still go by, why do you assume that you must return to my home? I can only guess that you’ve thrived up here. Looks like you’ve kept yourself well fed and clothed, and that makes me happier than you can imagine. I’d love to spend time with you, to catch up on those lost years, but there are more ways than one to do that. I spend half of the year up in this mountain, it’s my second home. Feel free to live here with Runa, just be sure to visit me.”

Lola’s eyes twinkled with love of the idea. “Runa? What do you think?” I didn’t hear anything, but I could guess that she approved. “Then let’s go! I want to see your house.” Lola laughed.

Smiling in return, I lead her back down the trail we went before. Thanks to Runa the dragon, I’ve become less and more like Rehol at the same time. Less, because I lost my grief. More, because of my friendship with a dragon, and the return of my daughter.  ‘Runa’ I went over that name in my head, That was my wife’s name.

On Designing a Race

Fantasy, or for that matter, Science Fiction, wouldn’t feel natural without the various non-human races that swarm about their landscapes. However, designing a race for your own world, whether a cookie-cutter elf or the Zaf’quaga from your own imagination, is a rather difficult task. I have set up three guidelines for how to design a race below. This is far from a detailed description of the process, but rather some general thoughts to keep in mind with the process.

  1. START with the idea: This should be painfully obvious when pointed out, but I’ve noticed a strong tendency for other world-builders to try to make a race ‘inorganically.’ For an example of what I mean by inorganic, I once came across a person who was so intent on avoiding cliché depictions of common fantasy race (dwarves, elves, gnomes, etc.) that his thought process boiled down to ‘how can I NOT have x do y?’ Needless to say, none of the races that he went on to describe were at all recognizable, and were so left field and strange that he had to write a  six paragraph essay just to get the basic idea of each one across. He spent all of his energy on avoiding an overdone idea, when what he should have been doing was starting with a fun and creative idea, and working from there.
  2. Ask how your race fits into the world: It doesn’t matter how cool your race is if it feels like a random piece of scenery to the audience. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to consider just how they interact with the world. Do they live just outside of settlements, doing whatever it is that they do? How do humans feel about them (keep in mind that I, being a human, personally LIKE human-centric settings)? If the race avoids people, how do they feel? Is there ceremonial, diplomatic, or commonplace communication between them and humans if any at all? Things like this. Remember that no idea exists in a vacuum, so let the chaos of your mind weave together.
  3. Do they represent anything: This is by far the most optional of the guidelines here. Again, I personally like to make the races (or spirits as I prefer to think of them) of my world symbolize something in the common mindset, because actual human cultures come up with other races as a way to explain or describe certain natural/abstract concepts. Whether this is literal (elves are seen as guardians of nature because they ARE guardians of nature) or just perceived (gnomes are symbols of passionate creativity when they are actually your average engineer) is up to you.

And there you have, that’s the basic thought process that I go through. Now go for and let the bizarre being spawn from your brain fluids!

Gilem: The Man-made Gods

Gilem (Gih-le-m) are the least powerful gods of Polaia. Most of their dominions are very small, no more than a village on average. They are the guardian deities of their respective villages, and therefore their dominions are very different from one another. For example: A Gilem who watches over fishing village might have the power to supress storms, while one from a more inland village might be tasked with staving off pestilence. Whatever the purpose, they are passive forces who usually only guard against generic forces.

They have no consistent form, and are instead represented by a somewhat anthropomorphised version of what they guard against.

Outsiders who have never seen a Gilem before commonly make the mistake that that which stands before them is an idol meant for worship of the deity, and not the Gilem itself. Many Polaians refer to Gilem informally as the ‘man-made gods’ in reference to the fact that each villages Gilem is created by their local cheifs, known as Gilalu, or ‘craft-fathers.’

According to Polaian superstition, anyting that a man builds possesses a small degree of individual will. Just how much will is possessed depends on how finely crafted a given object is. Gilem are consequentially the finest craft in their village. (On a side note: toilets, foods, disposables, and the like are often made by women for obvious concerns of ethics)

Gilalu are the leaders of their villages because of their supernatural ability to commune with the Gilem they or their ancestors created. Their role mostly comes down to the oversight of construction; making sure that houses, wells, storage sheds, and the like are built both securely and to the betterment of the village. However, they are also perceived as the more active aspect of the Gilem, and are thus required to defend in other capacities, such as killing a mountain lion that moved into the area, or damming a river in the rainy season. Succession is determined by a combination of heritage and skill. The title of Gilalu is defaulted to the deceased’s first-born son, but will be forfeited if the new Gilalu fails to maintain the Gilem’s body or accept the responsibilities of his role.

Though their forms and homelands are always different, Gilem always share a common personality; which is perfectly flat. The spirit that a Gilem is endowed with, though certainly with a will, possesses no emotion whatsoever and is apathetic to almost everything. Naturally, this makes communication incredibly difficult for the Gilalu, especially when it requires a specific plea. When such events arise, sacrifices become neccessary to rouse the god. Incense is burned, animals and grains are slain and burnt, and alcohol is poured out for its pleasure. The alcohol is especially important because, according to the Sages of the Five Isles, alcohol is pure emotion, and thus has the power to move even the dispassionate Gilem. Distilling was first developed on the island of Lilam for the express purpose of further pleasing the Gilem (though it has been consumed by mortals many times since then).

Sometimes a particular Gilem is far stronger than others. These Gilem’s size faroutreaches that of their kin, so that they rule over two or three villages, sometimes even farther. There are five of these Gilem that are at the very highest rank of Gilem, for they hold sway over the five provinces of Rehom, Kanuhom, Kaweiom, Lilam and Wogeilom. Together, they are symbols of the Polaian empire’s omni-reaching power. Of these five, the Cyclone, Gilem over the province of Kanuhom is the strongest and the master of the rest. The Cyclone is a 102′ statue in the form of a massive disk with four arms, two supporting it at the base, two raised high in the air. Each of the four arms possesses the mark of one of the other four provinces upon it, and the symbol for every other Gilem beneath the five is inscribed upon the statue’s disk body.

Before the countless Gilem of the Polaian empire were the four Still Ones crafted by the creator of the world, Sogom. He created the world firstly as a way to rid himself from the noise and chaos of the other stars about him. Sogom essentially wanted a summer home. As a result, he sent his wife down into the ocean to gather clay for him so that he might create four statues in the forms of beakless owls. He then endowed these with the power to dampen the other stars’ strength, thus making a bubble of static matter he called ‘the world’.

It is believed that this story is much the same as the Gilems’, and explains why they have such protective powers. The four Still Ones were made to filter out the power (or emotions) of other beings, to force objectivity and order upon things. Since many of the things, good or bad, in the world are caused by the cosmic scale of the Five Islands’ emotions, it is believed that the Gilem defend against disaster by amplifying and fine tuning the objectivity enforced by the Still Ones.

When the situation arises that one village is slain by another, or is found dead by disease, it is imperative that the Gilem be smashed to dust. This comes down to the fact that Gilem need their sacrifices for another reason. Without them, a Gilem’s lack of concern with the world increases, and paradoxically, so does its influence over the landscape. If left to its own devices, a Gilem can go so far as to render a five mile area completely inert and lifeless. Oddly enough, some people even still choose to live in these areas. These folks wish to gain a perfect level of emotional detachement, and so revere the wasteland Gilem and contemplate life under its shadow. These men and women are known as cursebreaker monks, and they are sometimes called upon by nearby villages for their incredible power to destroy unwanted emotions and curses in an area.