26 December 2012

more NaNoWriMo news

A slight update on my NaNoWriMo story. I'm up to 135,000 words, though seeing as I'm still on a first draft, I suspect that will go down to around 100,00 with rewrites (unless I go the other way and end up adding more, which i think is doubtful at this point...), though i suspect the first draft to easily go up to 175,000 - 200,000 words...

I tend to write a lot of purple prose. To those who don't know what purple prose is, it's the use of extravagant flowery prose where simpler shorter words would suffice. I tent to over-describe things (at least I fear I might), so a good re-read and second draft will be used to snip some of the worst offenders. I can also use a second draft to polish themes that I came up with while writing, solidifying them in the plot; as well as deciding what knowledge my main character possess. The story is about the protagonist learning more about his past and the world around him, and since I sometimes write scenes out of order, I have to go back and alter what info he comes across as it can sometimes be inconsistent, with him knowing less in later scenes than he does in earlier ones.

One thing I've realised over the years is that my writing is mutable: i never stick to a single plot or theme, it's always changing as I write. Even with this story, where I had a pretty decent idea of what it was about and where it was going, with a bullet-point walkthrough of what happens, the actual writing almost always throws a spanner in the works. new characters, revelations through dialogue and other chaos all come together to change my well-laid out plans. in the case of this story it ended up making some plot changes about 40,000 words into it. Since I was still deep in NaNoWriMo, I decided to continue, taking the changes into account and then going back to rewrite that which had come before. I've currently paused progressing the story in favour of revisiting the opening parts to get them in line with the rest (this is also while I figure out how I'm going to get to the conclusion and climax, which I've been putting off for a while now).

I am enjoying writing this one, though still get doubts every so often - particularly related to plot and characters, though I'm not worrying too much at this point. The goal right now is simple: to get a raw story down on paper (or pixels, at least), beginning to end. Worrying about pacing, plot etc comes with later rewrites. I wonder what other changes will take place then...

I do think that NaNoWriMo has helped me keep to a timetable or deadline - during november itself, the 1667 target per day is what kept me going and i do think that without it I would have given up (I had more than a few days where i simply did not want to write but was pushed by targets and fellow NaNoWriMo's taking part in my region, leading to not only acheiving and surpassing my goals for the day but also churning out some of my favourite parts after a rocky start (which can be polished later on).

I'm hoping to get the first draft done by mid - late Janurary, which is great, as I'm going on holiday for a few weeks in early February. This will let me take a break (since I've been spending at least a few hours a day on this since the first of November) and allow me to get back to it with (hopefully) a fresh mind. I'll spend any free time i have taking ideas and other snippets that I mentioned in the story (which I've collected while writing, in a seperate document for ease of reference) and elaborate on them and add to my ever-building encyclopaedia. I might even give the raw first draft to a few people to read to give me a general idea of what they like (so i can reinforce those parts) and what they don't like (so I can rework them or scrap them entirely in favour of maybe something else).

Only time will tell!

08 December 2012

NaNoWriMo progress

So NaNoWriMo is over... Not really.

I'm currently on the way to 100,000 words, probably 20-50k away from finishing the first draft. Much of it, perhaps as much as the first 20,000 words, needs full rewriting, as I was still figuring out structure and plot at that point. of course the rest of it needs a lot of polishing (I am yet to add the antagonist's thread to the plot, as I was keeping that for after, to add in as interludes between the main plot).

If I get enough progress done in the next month I might enter the Createspace/Google writer competition (word count allows for up to 150,000 which I think is doable. given the story), which only needs a pitch in January, rather than a complete novel. Those whose pitch gets chosen need to submit the first 5,000 words, and so on until a full manuscript is needed. No harm in trying :)

Here's a small dialogue excerpt (as always, raw and unedited) from about the midpoint in the story:


Hadiael was walking quickly against the rain, hurrying to reach the land-ship before it grew any heavier. “I can’t stand the rain, the cycle of rebirth and life it represents. Did you know that? Water evaporates from the sea, becomes clouds and rains back down onto land, where it gathers in the rivers and aquifers, trickling slowly back into the sea. Birth, life, death, rebirth… an endless cycle. Sickening. Elyden should not be like that. She is an old realm created from nothing and into nothing she will finally decay. All this,” he said, lifting his arms to the loggias and bell-domes around him, turning round theatrically, “Is for nothing. It aids the process of decay, you know. Ripping the stone from the earth. Creates a greater surface area upon which entropy can work its magic, you see! The bricks and stones rot quicker than the raw earthy skin of this orb. Chopping down trees… well, the empire has claimed a monopoly in that department. Few now live who know what green lands look like. You might know, depending on how old you are.”

Slaven nodded. He had seen wooded realms, long ago. He doubted any of them remained now, after Korachan had lain claim to them, exploiting them, stripping them bare.

“These cities, great symbols of civilisation are but a fleeting monument to the world’s entropy. In a thousand years there buildings will be gone. The town itself might remain, but it will be a different place, like a grub feasting on the rotting body of a slain predecessor. And in turn that grub will grow and die. Another might replace it but… well, you know what I mean. You have likely seen more death than any other I know… save perhaps one.” The man grinned.

Slaven turned to him. “The Lhauaparan.”

He grinned childishly. “For over a thousand years that thing has existed, suffering. It has seen death as few others have.”

“It has a spirit?”

Hadi regarded the clone for a moment before replying. This is a man looking for something, he thought. “What if it does? What if it doesn’t?”

“I am curious.”

Hadi shook his head. “No. You might be a clone, born without nuance or social grace, but the tough years have given you a semblance of mortality, of emotion that you cannot deny. I can see the urgency in your words, your actions. It is more than curiosity that drives you. I told you once already you will not find what you’re looking for here.”

“And I must still try.”

Hadi raised his hands defensively. “Be my guest. I don’t think Lhu has spoken with a Legionnaire before. The exchange might do him well.”

“Lhu?” asked Slaven. They would degrade such a creature, born of man’s most devious and accomplished sciences to defy the gods themselves by referring to it with such a… base name. Slaven did not know what to think. Was it any worse than branding the clones with numbers and letters?

“Lhu, yes. He doesn’t do much talking and was never christened by the madmen who made him.”

“You would imply I was created by madmen?”

Hadi cocked his head, sizing up the clone. “Someone’s got some father issues… Let us not waste any time here. You, the Lhauaparan, haemonculi… all are attempts at breaking the natural order of things, of bringing life where there should not be. You are aberrations – beautiful in your way, but aberrations nonetheless – and, frankly, you should not be. You were made by men who saw the demiurges and challenged them, defying the natural order.”

“I thought you did not believe in the Demiurges.”

“That would make me crazy. Clearly, I am not crazy,” grinned Hadi. “No, we challenge their divinity. A true god would be distant, alien, unknown. The Demiurges are many, fickle and driven by emotion – often negative emotion – much as mortals. Their power is not the thing in question, anyone can see that. But they are no gods, in the sense of an omnipotent omnipresent entity. How can a god not be deathless? The legends of this world are filled with tales of slumbering gods and their children, their bodies fossilised and rotting at the same time, stuck in a limbo between life and death, their dreams creating even when they cannot. That they can create life is accepted; just look at the empire – filled with humans. How can you deny the productiveness of Avraham with all these men running around like vermin?”

“What is wrong with creating life, then?”

“Well, aside from moving us farther from the goals of the entropic cults, it is obscene. That man thinks take that which makes the Demiurges special and twist it to his own ends goes against the nature of everything. We are beholden to the Demiurges. We serve them, through our prayer and devotion. They are the gods, the givers of life. That they allow such travesties to go on is a sign of their own mortality. Then again your opinion would be biased. You only exist because of man’s arrogance. That you would inherit that arrogance is to be expected.”

“It is not arrogance to be grateful for life and to question that life.”

“What is there to question? The age of philosophers is over. This is the age of decline, the great dawn of our age. The days grow shorter, the sun weaker. The seas have been retreating for millennia. The land itself weakens, as though whatever it was that held it all together is unravelling. That this comes with the death and torpor of the Demiurges is no coincidence.”

Slaven was nodding now. “Remove Rachanael from the equation and the world’s collapse is ensured.”

“You catch on quickly clone.”

They walked in silence, the rain perforating their steps, giving life to the puddles. They were coming to the outskirts of the settlement, where there seemed to be more people. The buildings here were higher than elsewhere in the city, rising like vines along the inside of the wall, their roofs serving as battlements. They passed through a large gateway, the main entrance into the city, beyond which was the land-ship and the Carnivale of Rust. There were people scattered around, mostly in the distance around the periphery of the carnival. A few stalls were set up outside the gateway, food vendors and other opportunists taking advantage of the carnival.

Behind them, Voss and Burrgh had slowed, hesitating at the gate. They did not want to proceed. Slaven turned round, seeing them. “Wait here. I will not be long. If the weather eases up, leave without me.”

Beside him, the tout had an arm on his back, pushing him onwards. “Come, let us show you the wonders of entropy.”

24 November 2012

NaNoWriMo FINSIHED! The Twilight of the Idols begins.

Do not let the celebratory title fool you, for my NaNoWriMo is far from over. In the eyes of the NaNoWriMo community (or whatever its ruling body is called), I am a winner, for I have surpassed the coveted 50,000 mark.

Not so fast boyo...

I actually did it three days ago, and gave myself a well-deserved rest. I've carried on writing and am standing on 55,000 words now... still less than a third of what I imagine the story will leave me with. I really want to finish this and am struggling on despite my inner editor resurfacing telling me that its shit, that there's no plot,. and that the characters (well, character... everyone else is an NPC) are not developed. All pertinent points... that I shall disregard to the best of my abilities!

Here's hoping i can finish and share Slaven's origin story with the rest of you...

I've also started submitting some short stories again, though I won't have an answer on any of them for around 3 - 7 months, in the case of some of them (though I can reliably guess what the responses will be...). the worst thing about submitting is the 'no simultaneous submissions' law, which prevents one from submitting the same piece of fiction to 2 different publications simultaneously (hence the name), on top of which is another law stating that one shall not submit multiple stories to the same publisher simultaneously (beginning to sound like the old testament here). As the response time is quite long for some of them, this make the process somewhat tedious... I'll keep you posted.

11 November 2012

NaNoWriMo update: Ketesh, city of sin

I've passed the 25,000 word mark and after a day of consternation with what has been now dubbed the 'conflagration of the inner editor', I am now back on track. I suspect the novel will require somewhat more than the 50,000 words required by NaNoWriMo, but then again the main objective is to write something and NaNoWriMo was little more than a catalyst for that. Let's hope it works out.

Here's another extract (again, first draft, unedited), regarding our protagonist's arrival to a city I've wanted to write about for some time, called Ketesh:

He first saw the city as a haze of light against the dark western sky. He had been walking at night for some time now, resting during the sun's apex and walking when the air was cooler and the chance of detection was lessened. Accompanied by little more than stars, had moved steadily north-west, with the Sichaalan highlands to his left and the wastelands of Kydonia to his right. He had passed a small town, Kekalakib, days before. the place was dreary, its people too concerns with their own woes to care about his troubles. he had resupplied and moved on, his body's thirst for umbra unsated.  If there was one place he knew he could stymie his body's unnatural craving, it was in Ketesh. 

He cleared a rise and saw the first sign of the city, the distant noise and the flicker of lights across the horizon, beyond a few more hill. The sun had disappeared some time ago and the sky had been in total darkness for little over an hour, yet still the city was alive. Indeed, of all the cities around the Inner Sea, Ketesh was the one most likely to gain vibrance following the sun's retreat beneath the threshold of night. 

He made his way to a road leading towards the city and followed it over a few more hills. unlike the lands he had wandered thorough over the past weeks, this region of Mharokk appeared more fertile, as though the city's exuberance had overflowed its walls and spilt onto the and itself, aloes of gigantic size dotted the landscape, with other more exotic plants memory and experience failed to name peppering the areas between. Patches of thick moss and lichen lay heavily on the strangely-shaped boulders of the region. Even under the moons-light he could see the cacophony of colour; reds, yellows, greens. this was a place unlike any other. Where elsewhere elyden died and spasmed her death throws, here she seemed to thrive. 

Before he was even over the last rise, the sounds of the city had become even more audible. the sounds of music and laughter drifted lazily on the still air. Shouting, screaming, singing, chanting. To his ears, accustomed to the sounds of silence and nature, the clamour was almost overbearing, the discord making him uncomfortable. He had been to Ketesh only once before, before its epicurean reputation had been warranted,  before the name Ketesh had even been bestowed upon it. what he knew of the place through experience was several centuries outdated. What he knew through hearsay was... hopefully exaggeration. 

Enjoying an independence made possible only though the fortuitous discovery of gold and soulstones beneath its oldest districts, Ketesh was a rare place indeed. Unconstrained by overlords, tyrants or conquerors, it had existed on that peninsula for many centuries, able to haggle its freedom from prospective conquerors. That fact had made the place a haven to those seeking freedom. exiles and outlaws were welcomed as long as they obeyed the place's rules. those persecuted by other nations' dogma and ideals were granted safe haven and asylum. Artisans and alchemists thrived there, as did those whose activities and pursuits their homes deemed to extreme. epicureans were slowly drawn there and a thriving sensate culture arose there, forming a nucleus that survived to that day. Any experience could be found in ketesh. Where the twin empires condemned the Firmament and its allies, Ketesh lauded them and granted them the same rights and freedoms that penumbrists, mystics, mythogigues and technarcanists enjoyed. boutique workshops and ateliers grew popular in the city's older lower wards, which gained renown across the Inner Sea for their niche arts and pioneering procedures. its harbours grew wealthy through both commerce and tourism, with patricians, nobles, exarchs and other wealthy figures from a dozen different nations travelled there savour its exotic cuisines and eclectic tastes. spices and herbs from far Tahab and tethysia were commonplace, as were the finest wines and spirits from the frozen north to the dark lands of Kharkharadontis, and beyond,. Truly it was a connoisseur's dream, and a sojourn to that place became know n as the grand excursion amongst fraternities of the rich and powerful. 

And that was not all for every pleasure of the flesh, every vice imaginable could be found there, if one knew where to look. halfbloods and otherworlders most exotic could be found there, willing to anything for the right coin. Drugs and vices unknown to the northern empire were commonplace there, with smoking dens and dreaming salons scattered throughout its upper-most wards, above the clamour of city life. 

it was a place both secular and religious, where non-believers were welcome to rub shoulders with zealots of a dozen different faiths and denominations. temples and shrines dedicated to extinct deities and alien divinities livened up street corners, with preachers and clerics of their many disparate orders blending in with what had to be one of the most diverse populations in the Inner Sea, if not the entirety of Elyden. 

If a body was looking for old myths and histories of ancient or extinct peoples, this was the place. 

Slaven paused and regarded the place, its high walls and higher towers and minarets beyond. the city was also known as the tiered city, not for its construction - truth be told, other than the lights and sounds that surrounded the city in a dizzying halo, there was little to mark the city as different to any  other, at least at that distance - but rather the levels of life. the simpler baser pleasures tended to fill the lower streets and the dungeons of regraded portions of the city; once streets but built over many times over the years, these regions were dark but for the sensory cacophony that filled them. workshops and ateliers abounded in such districts as did the simpler drinking halls and taverns. above, open to true skies and cleaner air, were the libraries, theatres, cafe's and sensoria of the city. above them, accessible only to the truly extraordinary and wealthy visitors, were the exclusive restaurants and private carnal temples. other places and groups - mystery cults, exclusive clubs, torture halls and hedonistic sects, where only the most extreme were welcome

04 November 2012

NaNoWriMo - update 2

10,000-words and going strong. Hope I don't burn out, as i tend do, but the motivation is strong and the desire to actually finish something is there, for once, so I can see this going far. The only problem? 50k might be a bit of a conservative look at word count. ill likely have to reach at least 75k, if not close to 100k to fit in the arcing story that i have in mind. can I shorten it or omit arcs to accommodate the 50-60k word limit that NaNoWriMo imposes, or should I carry on as intended and then omit in rewrites as necessary? I tend to ramble and dump huge blocks of exposition (especially when aiming for a certain word-count, perhaps in an attempt at that most hated of foes... filler!).

Here's another excerpt. The prologue, which is the fruit of today's labour, clockign in at over 3,000 words. assuming a standard word-count of 350ish words per page, that means 10 pages of exposition-heavy text right off the bat in a book that's (using the same calculation) aiming for 145ish pages. too much? I fear so...

(again, excuse any typos. this is as raw as it gets, and hot off the presses,as they say)

It is said that complex events are sometimes set in motion by the simplest of actions. It was in the spring of 4005 RM that a lowly clerk, checking regional annexes that were required for a report, stumbled upon an old steel box, marked in faded writing; 'Treatise in the discovery of the Sabbaoth-tomb, and technarcane and alcehmical research into the results unearthed.'

The clerk, intrigued by the scrawl, examined the box. Flaking papers, the handwritten words on their surface written in an old dialect and bordered by crude illuminations - indicative of their old age. A few ancient maps accompanied the texts, their outlines barely recognisable against the advance in cartography that had come since their plotting. A general idea of the areas they represented could be made out, though the borders and regions depicted were alien to the clerks eyes. Another indication of their age.

The papers had passed on to the clerk's factotum, where they lingered for some time, before making their way to a the seventh administrator of the hall of records. There they remained, ignored and if fate intervened, the entire tale would never have unravelled. But alas, it seemed as though such things needed to come to light and what might have lain there, gathering dust was disturbed months later.

It was an acolyte of an inquisitor this time, a man eager to rise amongst the ranks of his fraternity, willing to turn any fact or discovery to his advantage. Before passing on the information to his master, he made sure to examine the documents, taking great pains to translate the texts, verify the maps, correlate the information with the empire's history. After weeks of research, the acolyte was able to date the texts to c. 1190 RM and pinpoint the region depicted on the maps to what in extant charts was known as the Expanse of Gyarht; even then a crumbling land-locked place of little strategic or cultural importance - a wasteland without resources that was ignored after early explorations in c. 1100 RM.

There was no record of what the acolyte came to refer to as the 'Sabbaothic texts', and no amount of searching through the records and annals of that era could reveal anything of importance. No record of the expedition itself was found, nor mention of the technarcanists - a nascent vocation at the time, employing crude methodologies that were antiquated by contemporary standards - involved in the foray. This was puzzling, as the historians and amanuensis of Korachan had always been comprehensive chroniclers and record-keepers. To omit what was clearly a large and important expedition during an age of discovery and exploration was puzzling.

The scribe, a pale-skinned boy from upper Khadon whose patriarchal lineage had held the post for centuries, probed deeper. The turn of the second millennium of the Imperial Calendar brought had with it a new age of stability, for a thousand years the Korachani empire had been growing explosively, aggressive territorial expansions taking it into contract with other regions and nations. Wars were common, with resources that could have been channelled elsewhere used instead for military purposes. The last few centuries of that first millennium brought with them for the first time a sense of stability - its borders had expanded greatly and reached an apex they would not surpass for many centuries. industries that had been tied up feeding the imperial war-machine relaxed, looking instead to needs within the empire's borders. In this new age, inventions and discoveries made to supply its wars were turned to domestic use. The millions of square-miles of subjugated territory were comprehensively explored, many for the first time, and such explorations often took parties well beyond the empire's borders, exploring the eerie lands abandoned following the great wars of ending millennia past. Great marvels were discovered in that time; monuments attributed to the Demiurges and the first mortal races, terrain warped and twisted by the Firmament and the Penumbra, and other things, perhaps better left undisturbed...

And so, in that age of discovery, were founded the great imperial colonies of Novatul, Hothath and Memehara. The settlement of each was something widely publicised and praised throughout imperial lands. That the expedition into Gyarht went undocumented (save, of course, for the contents of that metal box) was strange and intriguing.

The acolyte became obsessed, sifting thought artefacts and records that had lain undisturbed for centuries in the hall of records beneath the Bastion of Steel in Khadon. miles of corridors a hundred feet-high lined from top to bottom with shelves stuffed with scrolls, stelae, tablets, cylinders, codices, treatises, records and Throne-alone knew what else. 

Nothing. Civil uprisings two-thousand years old involving three disgruntled peasants were recorded in detail. Administrative appointments with full hierarchies, dates, annotations and impressions were meticulously recorded. But nothing on that expedition to Gyarht.

The box itself contained mostly prosaic notes; expedition logistics, equipment lists, provision quantities and various statistics of little worth to a researcher so far removed from the events. Maps charted routes across the waters of the Ugoloth or the passes across the Cammorean mountains, though they ended in an unassuming mark in the southern foothills of the range, marked simply as Sabbaoth. And there, the trail ended.

It was only weeks later, when his interest began to wane and a logistician attached to his masters' entourage came across the box that more of the story was revealed. The art of the alchaemist was an ancient one and had led to many discoveries. The appearance of the first true technarcane processes in the mid first millennium RM saw the two vocations grow close to one another, leading to the creation of the first haemonculi - blood-servants artificially created through coagulated blood, umbra and host organs, cultivated together in the first ever birthing-vats. These first examples were truly grotesques, prone to disease and deformities, living short tortured lives.

But it proved that man could create life. The first true carnatects, hepatects and vivitects appeared following that fumbling victory and over the years they continued perfecting the techniques involved, a dedication that in 827 RM led to the first stable breed of haemonculus. It was that breakthrough that would, over the next centuries, lead to the growth of the colony of Memehara, which became invaluable to Korachan. In 1204 RM, the first Steel Legionnaires were created In a fleshmill there.

Memehara was one of the imperial colonies founded during the age of exploration, in c. 1050 RM, in what was then a coastal plain. Now, following millennia of decay and the slow death of the natural world and the wasting of her waters, it was a ruin over twenty-miles form the coast, engulfed by the sands of the Andiluthan shelf. The ruin was less than two-hundred-miles form Sabbaoth. 

A lone passage, written in a hand different to that of the main text on vellum of inferior quality, proffered further insights. It was written in a Parthish script that took a degree of translating, but it was legible:

"...the etheri salves have managed to move the earth from above the tomb, an accomplishment worthy of praise, given the heavy stratification (illegible) region. The tomb itself is fashioned from a soapy rock of unidentified nature. though soft and almost moist to the touch, it has survived the decay of ages remarkably well and is a credit to the ancient mortals who crafted it. (missing text) furlongs in length; a remarkable structure. Cuneiform text along the single massive lintel cannot be deciphered though is clearly ancient, the crude lines and simplistic strokes possibly belonging to the virgin tongue of the first mortals. Charcoal rubbings have been made and are attached.

Weeks of struggling with the immense stone slab acting as a door came to fruition yesterday, where it was lodged aside, revealing a noisome black sand that poured out. Almost immediately on contact with air it seemed to lose al moisture and turned white. Following further excavation and removal of that strange ash, an intricate carving was discovered on the inside of the door-slab. In have made crude diagrams of the carving and believe to be a chart or table of sorts, perhaps a star-map or calendar. At its simplest, it is a series of concentric circles, each divided into six slices. A large unique sigil appears to name each of the slices, with further cuneiform text (similar to that on the lintel) and pictograms in the concentric smaller slices. A larger circle envelops the others with a single unique sigil above it, incorporating elements of the others. Strangely, though the other gigils and scripts were unrecognised, that one was familiar to the etheri nomads, who claimed to have seen various ancient monuments and half-buried collossi around their ancestral lands bearing that sigil:


That was it. None of the diagrams or drawings mentioned had survived. When the acolyte tried searching for records on Memehara, he found little that he didn't already know. Its founding and growth as a supplier of raw materials to the empire's northern territories. The spread of flesh industries there and their maturation into something viable. And the creation of the first Steel Legions there. The last reference to the place the acolyte could find was in the late 12th century RM, that suggested the place had lost its industries to other more central regions and that its influence had dwindled so much that it was considered a ghost town by the dawn of the 13th century. 

That was when the Lord-Inquisitor had discovered the box and his meticulous research and dismissed him, ending a proud family history. What happened after that, the acolyte would never know. Within weeks of his dismissal he was homeless, disowned by his family, destitute. 


They were gathered in one of countless presbyteries of the Steel Bastion. An ancient room, the plaque above the solitary door leading into it green from age, its words illegible, this was one of many meeting rooms built into the design of the original structure, millennia past.

Like most other municipal structures in Khadon, capital of the High-empire of Korachan, the place was musty and oppressive. Separated from the world without by dozens (if not hundreds) of rooms in all directions, the air their was dank and lifeless. The sound of coughing peppered the air as patricians and potentates shifted uneasily in their chairs. No windows could exist in such a place and the corroded pipes that had once served to aid in the circulation of air, were little more than remnants form a past age.

Above, harsh artificial light hummed, casting its loathsome yellow light onto the amphitheatre-shaped room below. An ancient mural circled the room, interrupted only by rivet-encrusted beams of wrought iron and the door, was faded beyond recognition; with portraits and scenes reduced to darkened figures and gloomy patches, all colour sapped from them years ago. the scene was rendered all the worse for the dim lights above.

About a dozen figures, mostly male, sat in the room, waiting impatiently. Clad in the decadence that only a high station could afford, they were clearly men of importance. For a while they had been seated there, arguing the matters of the day, awaiting the arrival of the Grand Consulite, second-in-command to the reclusive Archpotentate of Korachan. Most, however, sat nervously, the revelation of what was afoot weighing heavily on their minds.

If the Lord-inquisitors' fears proved to be in any way true... well, things in Korachan were bad enough at it was. All it needed was this discovery shaking the foundations of its church.

The door opened and two purple-robed guards entered the room, poleguns erect. An old man, his withered frame hidden beneath layers of musty brocaded robes, walked between them, wizened yet pert eyes observing the room. Silence engulfed the others there gathered.

The man, seemingly content with what he saw, nodded before proceeding to the head of the table, a stunted servitor trailing behind him. There was none of the careful movements and weakness normally seen in men of his age or, more accurately, men of his apparent age. For none knew the span years he had witnessed. Some said he was as old as the Archpotentate Malicher. Others whispered that Consulite was merely a hereditary title, bestowed on those inheriting the post. Records, however, never spoke of a change and had always described him as 'old in name, if nought else'.

The man sat regally, lifting his sleeves with great deliberation, exposing unadorned hands and fingers whose only sign of age was their wrinkled skin. Whatever the mans' age, he was truly a paragon of human endurance (assuming, of course, his lineage infact human), for no orthosis or prosthesis did mar his body. His eyes, perched atop an alert aquiline face, surveyed the room without the aid of mechanical implants. Few others in the room could say the same. Indeed, thought the Consulite as his eyes rested on the Magnate-general of the Sodalities of Technarcanists, whose flesh had long-ago been replaced by machinery and orthosis. A withered husk was probably all that remained at his core.

"Thank you, my brothers and sisters," he spoke suddenly, his voice carrying readily across the room, its dulcet tones inspiring confidence, yet not overbearing. Perhaps the secret to his success. "for gathering here at this hour. I thank you, as do your people."

The Consulite paused as the servitor beside him took down his words. The man regarded his charges in turn. In his presence were the greatest individuals of Korachan. The two Penumbrist-principals; Arch-postulant of the three Dioceses of the High-empire; the Ecclesiast Leonis. Key Promulgator of Azazem. The Heads of the order of Diambulists and Noctambulists. Manufactor-lords. Representatives of the seven Inquisitorial Fraternities. Arch patricians and potentates. Chief of the demiurne cades. The list went on. The most powerful men and women in the empire and each looked to him for solace, guidance. He was not sure he could give it.

"You have been given the facts and know now as much as I. We are not gathered here to determine the verity of such claims, but to act upon them, for there is little time." the faint scratches of his menials' transcription continued for moments after he paused. "It is not declared openly, and for many of you this will be the first you hear me admitting such a thing, but it is well known - the empire falters. And the blame is not solely that of our home and world, Elyden. No. We pay now for the mistakes of our forbears and for our reluctance to admit that which happens. Cities across the Sea are crippled, the coast that once sustained them withdrawing daily. Once-prosperous quarries lie disused, their bounties plundered centuries past, leaving the manufactories of today wanting. Our people are starving from Skaros to Venthir. And the false-empire of the south impunes upon our borders with greater brazenness every day. Our father and master Rachanael grows weak."

From across the room the Arch-postulant rebutted. "Faith in the true Church of the Machine wanes from day to day as these heretical entropic cults spread their filth across our lands. We are losing members, and it is showing, my Lord. Our monitors report decreased activity from the Sepulchral Throne - Our God Rachanael is weakening. We cannot let this affront to the natural order continue!"

His fellows nodded, the low rumbling of comments beginning to fill the hall. The Consulite gestured for the man to stand down "That, Arch-postulant, is the crux of the matter. We cannot risk the languor of that which binds us together. The simple truth is that our god and unifier, Rachanael the Machine, needs worshippers to survive. We rely on him to survive. Without his aegis, the Black Fountain on which our industries rely is wasted. Without our industries - already in steep decline - we cannot weather this new age.

"This discovery," he said, "threatens to throw the entire world into chaos. e cannot allow another Demiurge to rise beside Rachanael, let alone in his place. This empire was built upon the balance inherent in the world, a balance that was established over millennia of slow natural change. What were once Two-and-Twenty slowly dwindled in number until only one amongst them remained - Rachanael. Should this discovery not be rectified, we stand to lose everything that we have worked so hard to maintain.

"These creatures need to be destroyed."

Silence greeted the ultimatum as the words were chewed-over, the severity of their meaning digested.

The first to break the silence was the High-Quaestor of the Concordantist Fraternity. A tall man of gaunt face and heavy a brow, he spoke, eyes never resting on any one person for long. They rested finally on the Consulite. "This first birthing  of the Legion occurred close to three-thousand years ago. How can any of them still be alive?"

"We cannot know for sure, but the circumstances of behind their creation dictate that it is a possibility. We must identify the time and place of the demise of each and every one of these aberrations and find their remains."

"An impossible task, my Lord," said the High-Quaestor thoughtlessly.

The Consulite stood, regarding him. "Has that ever stopped us? You would claim defeat before even trying? Is that what your home is worth?" the words were beseeching rather than condemning.

"Not all of us measure our lives in terms of millennia, High-Consulite," interjected another. "there was no record of the first birthing until scant weeks ago. It can't be done."

"It can and it has," came a voice. "Already three bodies have been recovered from the pyre-fields of Belhan, records of their death examined."

Silence gripped the room as realisation dawned that this threat was real.

The consulite nodded. "Good. We must think in terms of the empire and not individuals. Nothing is an obstacle. Do what you must. You have been granted the authority of proxy in my absence. Do whatever it takes. Use every tool at your disposal to unearth this concealed past and keep Korachan safe."


The Consulite paused, regarding the room, the men and women there gathered. They had spoken at length, considered many options, but the truth was... they had to act, decisively. Beside him, his servitor finished writing the last of their discourse.

He stood again, a gesture of finality. "Then we are at an accord," he said. A statement, not a question.

Heads nodded. Hands tapped against the brushed steel table. Voices remained silent. None present wanted the records to speak their names. There was an accord, but a bitter one.

The Consulite nodded, the need for further words unnecessary.       

"For the Archpotentate, for the empire, for the Machine.

"The Triptych," spoke all as one.

03 November 2012

NaNoWriMo - update

Just a quick post to let you know this is progressing nicely! the objective is 1,661 words a day (or thereabouts) with a final word count of no less than 50,000 words. I daresay I might need more than that to fit in what I'm aiming for, but we'll see. Here's an excerpt from what I have so far (still rough and probably has quite a few typos):

"His name is Rashul," said the halfblood, glassy eyes flitting from table to table as though looking for something.

Slaven cared little for the eyes. It was the rest of that retched face he couldn't stop thinking about. He had heard a saying once in the etheri pidgin. t was difficult to translate into the imperial tongue, but in a nutshell meant: Meet a halfblood and you've met them all. Know a hundred and you know nothing. Something like that. And it was true. He had failed to keep track of the different breeds and houses and lineages of halfbloods he had met in his years on the road. Admittedly, his life had spanned centuries; far more than the paltry two to three decades most proletariats in the cities enjoyed, but still, the variety was most... disturbing. 

While a rare few had bodies and features that most humans would kill to lay down with, the vast majority for them were so alien as to be repulsive. Bifurcated jaws, skin that sloughed off in metallic flakes where it was not calloused and malformed, deadened eyes that said more with a glance than conceited poets could with a day on a soapbox, corpse-like bodies.

This specimen was none of those things. Unnaturally slender, with the grace and spindly form of a spider, the halfblood was altogether the son of its father, as the saying went. Stood upright, it would have been around 8-feet tall and probably weighing less than an emaciated man of the empire. Its arms and legs were gifted with extra joint, making the spider analogy yet more pertinent, their movements fluid yet strangely... spasmodic. It gestured with seven-fingered hands, equally fluid in motion, despite being weighed down by heavy signet rings and gemstones. Like the rest of it, its face was long, almost horse-like with skin akin to that of shimmering oil or the scarab-shell, catching the harsh light in different hues as it moved and beneath bulging lids of similar quality, protruded dead eyes like pearls, emotionless yet beautiful. Almost unnervingly so.

Slaven struggled to maintain eye-contact with the halfblood as it continued to talk, its last words lost to his cursory examination. "... exiled for nourishing outsider beliefs. The etheri care little for the ways of the greater world and tend not to look farther north than the mountains that border that collapsing desert-home. His views were extreme, his attitude seditionist." the halfblood paused, noting the alabaster-skinned mans' reaction. "What is extreme to one people is a cultural norm to others. I do not part with knowledge freely, and though your donation for such gifts of words weighs down my purse, there is not a little that i have learnt of you too, clone. One such as yourself must surely have seen the world in his travels. It is likely that what severe beliefs this man harbours are something that comes common place to people of the civilised world."

Though Slaven was not surprised that the halfblood had ascertained his history (anyone versed in the histories of the Steel Legion would have blind to not forge the links), he was surprised that it had named him for what he was so openly. If the halfblood was not so well-connected Slaven might have retaliated, verbally if not physically. He was trying to forget his days of bloodshed, not reawaken the beast. "I didn't ask for his life-story. I want to know where this man is."

The halfblood noted the inflection of his tone, the slightly shifted expression, the urgency in his posture. "Something tells me that it is more than curiosity or professional desire that causes you to search for this man, clone."

"Say that word one more time and you'll regret it, Tahlib," said Slaven, edging forward  in his seat.  

The halfblood clapped mockingly, the eerie gait of its many-jointed fingers and elongated palms unsettling and strangely silent. "Well done. I did not know that the Steel-Legion offered esoteric education as well as martial training. Few people are well-versed in the lineages of halfbloods."

Slaven let the slur pass. "I have come across your kind before. You are hardly trustworthy."

"Well, that is likely more than I have. We are hardly a fraternity, though I am sure you know that already."

"I know all you care about is amassing your collections," said Slaven, referring of course to the Tahlibs' insatiable greed for knowledge of any kind. That trait, garnered from an ancient primogenitor - the otherworlder patriarch or matriarch whose blood, though now diluted, still gave that monger of information life and character - was a vital commodity in the cities of the lower empire. Indeed, any empire or kingdom or province that was home to such a creature could scarcely consider itself to have any secrets. "you still haven't named your true price."

The halfblood nodded sagely. "True. Excuse my penchant for digression. My mind, you see, it works different to yours. Though everything is compartmentalised and stored, within easy reach of my tongue, it yearns to spill out. I cannot help but tell stories.

"That which you seek was not easy to come by. Without giving anything away before taking my payment, this man cannot and will not be found close-by. Even armed with the necessary directions and languages, he will not reveal himself willingly -"

"Though he preaches to crowds of thousands?"

Another nod. "The more powerful a demagogue becomes and the more followers he gains, the more he seeks the solitude of whatever providence caused him to unite so many people. I feel sorry for such men, truly."

"I do not. Now please," said Slaven.

"Of course," said the Tahlib, gesturing with its spider-hands. "To cut the hyperbole short, Rashul was a difficult nut to find. The monetary cost for this has already parted hands," he said, tugging cheerfully on the small pouch, the ceramic-coated coins inside clinking. Its toothless mouth was curved into what might have passed for a smile. "Now, to the true compensation. 

"The days of the Steel Legion as a mythic force is over. The sundering of empires and the, how should I say it... degradation of the world and its peoples, has caused the militant orders of the empires to falter somewhat. I know little of your brotherhoods' fine past, other than the cursory. I wish to know what it is like to be born to cold glass and steel, to never have felt the warmth of a mothers' womb. Were the spot not already covered by an occlusion, I would have dearly liked to see your stomach without it navel."

"Get to the point." Slaven's voice was dry. Each word grated at his nerves more than the last. There was only so much he could put up with this fool.

"A biography of sorts, from your inception, to this day. Why do you not travel with the legions? Are you a deserter? Are your brothers no more?" the Tahlib's lip curved upwards into a lop-sided smile. "Or do you not know these things?"

Slaven gritted his teeth and tried hard to rein in his anger. He looked at the alien thing before him, its opalescent eyes without focus. Was the thing even looking at him, he wondered? Its fingers played with the pouch on the table, knocking it from one side to another, enjoying the sound of the coins. Though Slaven had no way of knowing what passed for a smile on a face so grotesque, he knew it was enjoying this. Slaven had been tortured many times before, but this toying was the subtlest most infuriating kind. Where physical pain was something he had been conditioned to withstand and combat, this psychological bullshit that city-dwellers insisted on levelling at one another was something else entirely, something the carnatects and technarcanists responsible for his life and the  patrician-generals who had trained him had not considered.

He spat on the ground, keeping his eyes affixed on those of the Tahlib and leaned forward. "I think you know more about me than you let on and you're trying to goad me into giving something away, something you want, perhaps for another deal or to satisfy your sick cravings."

Slaven stood. "I can find what I need elsewhere."

The halfblood nodded, lifting a metal cup to the Legionnaire. "I look forward to speaking with you again."

27 October 2012


Sorry for the lack of updates. As they say, moving house can be hectic, you can imagine what having a house built is like..

Anywho, there's been very little done in the way of Elyden over the past few months, though with NaNoWriMo looming, I thought i'd have a go at something I've always wanted to try though have never gotten round to doing.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo is an abbreviation for - National Novel Writing Month. (you can find out more about it here http://www.nanowrimo.org/). The name really says it all; the challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. editing, drafting, cleaning up of text is all secondary to the act of getting the words out there - that can all be sorted out later on.

I'll be updating the blog with my progress, and really hope to get this done this month as otherwise this will be the fifth year I fail to accomplish anything!

Fingers crossed!

29 August 2012

Shaham of Nekoda AWOL!

Try as I might, I just didn't find the time to continue the adventures of Shaham and the entries seem to have stalled after just 12 parts! Oh the shame!

But never fear, though his updates will be sporadic, they will not end. In hindsight I realise that writing it in real-time was a bit of a stretch, considering my shift-work and other commitments (including miniature converting/painting freelance) to keep up with. I often wonder how people manage to successfully complete NaNoWriMo when I cant even manage 3 days I a row writing. guess I need to stop procrastinating (i do tend to spend a lot of time reading blogs and random websites (over and over) and get writing!

With regards to cartography, its slowed down somewhat at the moment, and I've continued writing backgrounds and regional histories, like this:

Nation that appeared in 835 RM following the ascent of the otherworlder known as the Steward to the ruling council, which was abolished. The kingdom was centred around a religion known as the Child’s Adventism, which was popularised by the Steward (considered a prophet of the child), that foretold the coming of a child emperor that would on the passing  of its 7th year unite Opham with all surrounding regions as one.
                This religion was almost universally accepted, save in the city of Naal, which for some years had drifted from the Ophami ideal and had become influenced by the regions’ imperial rulers (Opham was and remained at the time a vassal to Parthia (now known as Parthis), which in turn was under Korachani control), its own religion taking on many traits from the Church of the Machine. Naal was the only city to have voted against the change in government and opposed the appointment of the Steward as regent to (in Naal’s own words) ‘the invisible child’. The schism between Opham and Naal only grew following this until in 867 RM its armies marched peacefully into Tentael (the Ophami capital) and declared its intent to sunder itself completely from Opham. The Steward accepted, declaring to its people that once the Advent of Child occurred, Naal would and Opham would be reunited. The people largely accepted this and Naal was granted its independence.
                Under the leadership of the prophetic Steward, Opham prospered, though its vassalage to Parthis meant that much of its peoples hard work was lost in tithes and taxes. Nevertheless, a rigid doctrine appeared around the regency. A child under the age of 7 was chosen from prospective families, its lineage and the traits of its family playing a major role in the selection. The child would become Emperor, its will enacted through the actions of the regent, though if the prophesised events did not occur on by its 8th birthday, the child would be returned to its family, its name a mark of shame. Over the years, this process became highly ritualised with a great deal of ceremony and symbolism attached to the various processes and procedures and it was sometime in c. 1500 RM that the failed children would be ritually slain, in offering to the true Child.
                It people united by their religion and expectations of the prophecy high, Opham did what it could with that money was left after paying hefty tithes and takes to Parthis. Where it could it bolstered its defences, in the event of an invasion (such as the one that had claimed its twin nation Opret in c. 740 RM), and occasionally sent its troops south to slay any of the half-breeds that had resulted by unions between oghur invaders and humans at the time. Despite its vigilance, Cyhlagharr paid little attention to Opham during these decades, with a few sporadic corsair or privateer activities marking the extent of their ‘attacks’. It was changes to the north that caused the most unease for Opham. Parthis, despite its vassalage to Korachan, had been relatively autonomous, with the arrival of the so-called Scion Azer in 537 RM bringing great change to the region that echoes even 4-centuries later, despite imperial intervention to end their beliefs down (though many scholars postulate that even the Korachani administration, xenophobic as it was, had no choice but to acknowledge the scion of Avraham as a true entity, and his association with Rachanael (being his nephew, so-to-speak). Unrest in Parthis and a reluctance of its populace to be governed by Korachan, coupled with other problems north of the inner sea, led to Korachan abandoning the region to the interreges in 934 RM.
                Almost immediately, there came a change to the region. No longer enslaved by imperial morals and dogma, Parthis fully embraced its heritage and flexed muscles that had for too long been shackled. It continued tithing Opham, using the burst in money to expand its borders south, largely along the western coast of the sea of Byssos, and by establishing colonies in old Opretian lands. The Interreges fully abandoned Parthis in 967 RM, remaining in Naal, where the two disparate cultures slowly melded, the patricians that made Naal their home forsaking their true imperial heritage to start anew. Parthis suffered following imperial abandonment, and was forced to abandon its colonies and its borders with Opham faltered.
                Liberated from 200-years of vassalage, Opham flourished. Produce and money that had previously been appropriated by Parthis were suddenly their own once more. The region experienced a renaissance, with art and growth experienced across all settlements. Its own borders began increasing as new settlements and colonies were established, many of which encroached on old Opretian lands. Crusades into those lands increased and between 976 and 982 RM hundreds of oghur half-breeds were slain, paving the way for more expansion. During these crusades, the city-state of Roah (last remnant of Opretian culture) was encountered and trade was established between the two.
                Within the span of 50-years, Opham had become the dominant force in the region, exerting its influence on Parthis through trade negotiations as well as west with Cyhlagharr, where it tentatively traded items the oghurs could not produce locally, with the oghurs in turn restricting their activities in Opret to a defined border (where they had effectively established as many as a dozen human ‘farms’, the largest of which was known as Ograd, to supplement their need for slaves). An alchembral calamity in the oghur city of Halgdaggr in 1008 RM had left much of the Camarinal sea penumbrally tainted, severely restricting fishing in its waters, negatively affecting Ophami settlements along its shores, though the oghurs were far more severely affected, leading to a dwindling of their presence in Opret and their acceptance of this trade agreement.
In the north, Ophami borders expanded across the less-afflicted shores of the Camarinal, reaching the city-state of Eruto in c.1110 RM, which had been in a precarious position for some decades, trading with both Opham and Parthis. Nearby lodestone and ore deposits recently discovered made the city a favourable acquisition and after years of threats and diplomatic missions to the city-state, it finally relented and in 1121 RM became a vassal to Opham. The region stabilised after this time, securing its trade with Parthis and other nations. The Child’s Adventism remained a powerful religion, despite what outsiders would claim to be a misinformed prophecy – hundreds of children had been elected as emperor, only to see their 8th year come without fulfilment of the so-called prophecy. Enjoying sertain priviledges that others did not have, the child emperors were buried in a great necropolis outside Tentael upon death. The Stewards powers of oratory served the nation well in those days, for many would see a child rise to the position of emperor only for him to be forced to step down. The peoples’ faith was tested and many saw themselves drifting away from the religion, gravitating to the faith of nearby Naal, whose own borders had been steadily growing.
In the south, the city of Olnnad – the southernmost of major city in Opham – had become notorious for its growing alchemical tradition, thought by many to be attributed with trade with the many lhaus enclaves to the south. Through its alchemical guilds, the city had rapidly gained an influence over surrounding areas, its distance from the capital ensuring it was allowed to progress at its own pace, its own culture surpassing that of Opham proper by c. 1250 RM. Meanwhile, in the south-west the caravanserai known as Holothan (built on the ruins of an old Erashan city, Alatean) had become very influential in the region, seeing much traffic from Roah, Ograd, Olnnad, Parsimenia (a small but rising settlement built on the Opretian ruin of An Simeia), Tentael and, farther north, Eruto and Tethra. By 1274 it had grown so powerful that its merchant houses were effectively able to purchase Roah, bringing the last remaining fragment of Opretian culture into Opham territories.
Holothan and Olnnad had both grown exponentially, rivalling Tentael in grandeur, and surely surpassing it in wealth and size. The growth of these two cities (not to mention the added pressure of Naal to the west and a resurging Parthis to the north) caused tension in Tentael, with many businesses and industries abandoning the city in favour of the two upstarts, leaving Tentael a diminished city. Holothan itself adopted the moniker Ophram (meaning ‘of Opham’) by 1440 RM. This was an open challenge to Tentael and the older capital of Opham (which by then had been reduced to little more than a way station along the Holothani trade route), a challenge Tentael was unable to accept. The capital continued to diminish, losing control of the Holothani trade route by 1462 RM, when Olnnad and Ophram (the name Holothan by then forsaken) effectively ended its rule, emerging as separate entities. The Child’s court was relocated to Ophram in 1465 RM, leaving Tentael little more than a ruin tended to by Templars and a handful of families.
The major trade route of Ophram was sundered, with contact with Olnnad reduced following several trade disputes. To avoid war, the trade route was divided in two – with Olnnad maintaining exclusive rights with Naal and Lira, Ophram maintaining exclusive rights with the lhaus enclaves and Ograd, and both allowed to trade with Eruto (still under vassalage to Ophram) and Bahal.

pretty basic stuff, and out of context some things might seem rather bland. For instance, the oft-mentioned lhaus enclaves are remnants of the ancient lhaus empire, the lhaus being one of the two-and-twenty mortal races (so theyre not human), in this case, obsessed with immortality and the building of golems/clones in which powerful lhaus can place phylactries containining their souls.

12 August 2012

My lovely Inner Sea

So I've been hard at work trying to finish off a decent web-version of the Inner Sea map (the print version is still far from completion however, as I want to wait until I flesh out most regions before I commit to the 150€+ cost of having it printed out).

The below pictures are the 'culmination' of years worth of work. I'm finally happy with the colour palette and overall feel (though I'm surprised at how different it looks on different monitors - my Asus Transformer, for instance, shows it very yellow while my laptop screen is more balanced) though I'm sure I'll keep on tinkering as i spot things I don't like.

I've divided the image into quarters so i can upload it at a higher res.





09 August 2012

the travels of Shaham of Nekoda. pt2

8th Ashtalen; 4011 RM (3 RMe), Amouar, Vârr.

Everad, my guide, fits the Vârran mould well-enough. Dour and of few words, his eyes seem to do most of his talking. Dark skin slowly acquired from years of hard work east in the harbours of Amouar sets him apart from most Vârrans, but those talkative eyes are as dark and sunken as those of any Vârran man. Like many of the workers born after the empires’ retreat, he wears his hair long, pulled back tightly in perhaps a dozen bunches, held together by a handmade reed-and-aluminium band on which the disk of Solum is sewn. His frame, though lean, its sinewy muscles clearly visible beneath a body that is almost completely bereft of fat, is a welcome sight in a world where physical ailments, disfigurements and diseases have become all-too common.
                I stop a few times during our ascent of the escarpment that once served to divide the administrative and noble quarters above from the workers’ districts below – a large marine shelf that was submerged beneath the waters of the Propontis until around 3,000-years ago. The city stretches behind me, before reaching the boundary with the dark waters of the Propontis. Beyond, the border between sea and sky is imperceptible, hidden beneath a thick morning mist, rendering the vista behind me in murky tones. The harbour is as busy as can be expected of a city that, during its peak 300-years ago boasted a population of around 350,000 souls, though which now would be lucky to claim 7,000. The morass of vacant structures is palpable, doubly so from this height. The rotting frames and toppled debris of ancient imperial structures flank the north and south edges of the city, a labyrinth that is ignored by the hard-working folk of the ‘city’, populated instead by degenerates and other dregs.
It is their ilk that I am looking for today, though not in the ruined quarters, but rather the ruin of the great temple that has stood guarding the city for just over 2-centuries. It was the last effort of a faltering imperial presence there to assert itself amid they dying continent. Construction was begun there in 3795 RM by the Avénethi order of the Fraternal Inquisition of the empire, whose influence in the region was faltering. Begun under great duress from Korachan to acquire resources and funds without denting its annual allowance, the surrounding lands were scoured for resources. With most natural resources spent centuries earlier, they were forced to search elsewhere. Though some veins of granite and other resources were found, they were too few to fuel the great construction effort that was beginning west of the administrative district. Slaves and workers were drafter in their thousand from around the city and other settlements in the region, beginning work on the catacombs and scaffolds that would become the temples most noteworthy features.
The Avénethi fraternity was the last imperial caretaking presence in Vârr and ultimately departed in 3843 RM, some 50-years after construction began. The temple was left less than half finished, a crude and imposing metal skeleton only partially clothed in concrete and granite slabs, all pretence of art or design as yet unrealised, little more than unrealised designs in architects’ plans. Construction on its voluminous dome was only half-finished, with great metal ribs arching from immense columns, meeting in the centre, the sky visible beyond. So big was that dome that once completed scholars envisioned it having its own weather, with rain expected to be a common occurrence, as it was in the superior Bastion of Steel.
But alas, the fragmentation of the Korachani empire had many casualties. The temple was one, and it stands now, a rotting shell; gentle reminder to all that even Korachani dreams lay unfulfilled. Since that time, the raw materials that lay unused at the things feet were taken, used and sold elsewhere. Great sheets of metal skin were ripped off where they could be, leaving the thing a rusted patchwork. Refugees fleeing the predation of militant gangs and their warlords made the place their own, its labyrinthine catacombs and crypts, its passages and hundreds of side-chapels and unfinished ossuaries becoming their homes.


I am writing now in the shade of one such chapel, resting from the ascent before we go in. It is an unassuming protrustion to the temple’s main body, the metal on its door worn smooth by curious or perhaps devout hands touching it over the years. Flanking the door are two niches, designed to house statues or idols of some form, though they were either never placed there or were taken (probably melted down to their constituent parts) years ago. Instead the vacant spaces are now covered in candles and cathadems (lead streamers with litanies and devotions etched into their surface); the prayers and hopes of the Vârran people almost palpable. It is clear that, despite the empire’s retreat less than 2-centuries ago and the resurgence of the ancestral deity known as Solum, that the influence of Korachan is still strong here. The children of imperial immigrants yet live here and, though some are persecuted, their beliefs in the old imperial deity and its saints clearly evident.
The verdigris-encrusted plaque that stands above the door of the chapel is corroded beyond recognition, whatever divinity or aspect the place was once dedicated to now unknown. Inside, I feel confined by the meagre size of the chapel, its oppressive aura attributable to the stench of mould and rust. The walls around me are covered in mostly broken bass carving murals in stone, any features they once held disfigured by the filth that cakes them. The encaustic colours that would once have covered them are long gone, peeled off under the stresses of the regions’ humidity. In front of me are 4 simple stools, at the head of which is a typical imperial statue, the large sword and sword that are common motifs of the old religion prominent. Less-so is the pale face – stark in contract to the brown-and-orange patina the rest of the statue is covered in – barely visible beneath the shadow of a heavy cowl and the grime of decades. The whole thing is chained and bolted to the wall and floors – possibly a deterrent to opportunists. More candles, their grey-brown wax common to this region, line the feet of the statue, more cathadesms poking out from beneath them.
Despite the growing persecution of their kind, it is clear that those loyal to the old religion of the empire remain common here.
I leave and re-join my guide, who is some distance away now, speaking with a local soldier. A common sight beneath the temple. Indeed, the apex of the escarpment, running for at least 2 miles, north-to-south, dividing the ancient coastal shelf from the higher lands to the west, is peppered with pillboxes and towers overlooking the city and sea beyond. Agents of the hierogoths that reappeared in the wake of imperial occupation, their role is largely to maintain peace; a difficult prospect in a city that is rife with corruption and friction between different denominations and religions.
They city’s main religion is the rapidly spreading divinity known as Solum, an ancient deity that was worshipped by the people of Vaern before imperial censors quashed its worship, converting it into a saint of Rachanael in c. 1000 RM. Though subsequent generations of Vârrans were brought up with Solum as an imperials saint, its dogma and belief-systems corrupted by the imperial church, many factors of the deity remained true, most notably the worth of martial strength and its link with wisdom and mental purity. The Church of Rachanael remains stubbornly rooted in places it has converted and nowhere else is this more evident than in Vârr, where even close to 2-centuries of freedom and over half-a-dozen generations born outside of imperial influence have failed to tarnish its strength. Though the church itself has all but died in Korachani lands (the schism of 3705 RM sundering the church in two, an even neither ever truly recovered from) fragments of it persist in Vârr, albeit heavily corrupted and laced with resurgent legends and other impurities that have been handed down the generations. The third and smallest local faith is the worship of the Lyridian Augurs and their divine head the Sibyl of Myra. Beholden to nine mystic beings known as the Abulia, the Sibyl and her servant s the Augurs are farseers of unparalleled power and prestige and are worshipped as deities in Lyridia. Though it goes unrecognised by the augurs, the influence of the Sibyl is clear, for it is felt as far away as Amouar where even in the wake of imperial fanaticism it is considered a heathen practice, its worshippers conducting their rituals in the secrecy of their own home.
As though the clash of religions were not enough, Amouar is a place of various peoples. The descendants of imperial immigrants and Vârran natives are the most common, though many people in the city can trace their lineage to Pelasgos, Rhamia and even Lyridia. I have seen few halfbloods during my stay here, and I can see reason why, for I doubt they would be welcome. The influence of Lyridian xenophobia? The War for the Shadow and the Helix brought saw many Ahrisheni refugees fleeing south, settling in Vârr amongst other places. There are even whispers of witches and sorcerers from the north-east settling the hinterlands Vârr, though I have seen little evidence to support this claim (though given the regions’ distrust of  Firmamentalists and their ilk I can only assume that any dwelling here would do their utmost to keep the fact secret. The Prison Carceri has a long history, knowledge of which has spread far beyond the borders of Vârr over the years). This   
 Though conflict between different religious groups is common, it is downplayed by the authorities, which are trying to bring stability and trade back to the city and surrounding towns. In sharp contrast is the persecution of those deemed not Vârran enough, criteria I have discovered is open to much interpretation and abuse. Indeed, it is only through my letters of marque issued by the turrets of the ruling Heirogoth in western Amouar that I am afforded the comfort of safe travel, and even then the going has been turbulent, at best. This is such a time.
Everad beckons me over, asking for my papers and sigils. I produce the heavy paper and lead seals from my bags, and lift the aluminium sigil around my neck into sight. The soldier is speaking hurriedly, speaking as much with his hand gestures as he does with words. The language is harsh, owing more to the pidgin Korachani tongue than it does to the Vârran language of its natives and other cultures, and dialects differ from district to district within the city itself. The outlying towns and other vassal of Amouar sound like different languages to me. He gestured to a colleague, who lowers his powedergun (an ancient thing, probably dating back to the times of Korachani rule) and looks at the papers. He assures the other soldier (and us in so doing) that the papers are legitimate, and gestures to the temple, as though in invitation to enter.