Lords of Khazak Khrim

Bear with me. This is the first post I have typed on my phone…

My next book, which I am currently working on, is about a war between two enormous Empires and their various proxies and opportunistic enemies.It is a more modern conflict in that it is driven by ideology and politics more Than migration, expansion, or the need of resources.

The Domains of the Chosen is an Empire based around the city of Krass, the last city to survive the Reckoning.  This event was the magical equivalent of a nuclear war, beginning with powerful spells and ending with apocalyptic storms of uncontrolled magic.  The people of the Domains survived putting aside their differences and banding together. Their union is an imperfect one, and is held together as much by magical Oaths and fear of their enemies than anything else. 

In book terms the Domains are represented by familiar fantasy races and cultures. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, powerful mages, and even Vampires were forced to coexist in a confined space and work together to survive against tremendous outside forces. When they emerged into a post Reckoning world, they were mostly united.

The societies outside the Domains are my own creations or inspired by the odder ideas in the world of fantasy and history. The Wirn to the West of the Domains are a people who seek to finish what the Reckoning started, reshaping the world into a new form. They claim to be the children of wild magic and exhibit the ability to twist the weaves of traditional magical forms. More interestingly the Wirn have a shared consciousness which allows a remarkable degree of cohesion. The Kirifans descended from nomadic survivors of the wild magic storms, mutating and changing as they migrated to escape the dangers. They have strange eyes with slitted pupils and aquatic adaptations. Their society is based around a symbiotic relationship with the massive coral spires which they shape with their magic. 

The Vvath are a true Empire, like the Domains. They, too, predate the Reckoning. Khazak Krim was once part of a larger Dwarven Kingdom. It was a border fortress overlooking the only land route between the continents of Sudra and Ithal’Duin. When the Reckoning began the wealth of the Dwarves was a tempting target to the Gifted, and Khazak Krim quickly found itself cut off from the rest of the kingdom. They shut their doors and decided to wait out the worst.

Meanwhile the first Sword-Bearer was born. While forging and enchanting a weapon, an old smith created a strange blade. He felt odd when he made it, disjointed. It was later discovered that his spirit had bonded with the blade. Eventually they discovered the true powers of this process, including the ability to possess the wielders of the blade, and used it in their conquest. However, the immediate problem of the early Sword-Bearers was acceptance among their own people. They realized that their abilities could be seen as monstrous, or even tainted magic. So they claimed that their lore was a gift from the great forger.

The Kings of Khazak Khrim, however, are not Sword-Bearers. Knowing that they would be seen as terrible if they tried to wield power directly, the early Sword-Bearers agitated for the nobles of the Fortress to declare a new dynasty and then made themselves indispensable to the new king.

The differences between these two Empires stem from their seeds.

The City/The Fortress: Krass is a mighty city. While its walls are high and kept out the worst of the Reckoning it was always a place teeming with people and it only got more crowded. The city is a place were cultures mix and barriers are broken down and replaced. Racial and Ethnic tribalism were replaced with factional politics and class warfare. Khazak Khrim on the other hand began as a Fortress. Virtually unassailable, the Dwarves of Khazak Khrim put security above all else. They never learned to mix with other groups and emerged with a sense of racial superiority, encouraged by the Sword-Bearers who see living things as chaff.

Refugees/Military Colony: Krass took in many refugees during the early days of the Reckoning. The last of these were some of the most powerful magic users left alive, some of these had even begun the war that led to the magical storms. The multicultural aspect of Krass is not good for unity or purity of vision, but it allows the Empire to absorb new people and ideas and grow. Khazak Khrim has retained the militant mindset of the fortress. To them it is conquer, or be conquered. Strength is what keeps them safe. Enslaving and destroying other races is seen as desireable, and the Vvath employ a kill em or convert em methodology.

The Chosen/The Sword-Bearers: The people of Krass had the foresight to see that the Chosen would be needed to undo the damage of the Reckoning and hold back any tainted creatures that made it over the wall. They made a compact with the very people they feared the most to ensure that they all would survive. The Chosen are bound to them by oath, although they lack unity and vision. The Sword-Bearers were united in their need for secrecy and have a common vision for the Empire. They believe in strength and authority above all and seek to secure their Empire at all costs. Because of the powers of the blades, they are able to take over the bodies of potential foes, often conquering an enemy simply by giving them a blade as a gift.

The Krassian Empire and the Empire of the Vvath are both huge, sprawling affairs. The people of the Domains believe in freedom and prosperity, but are still nationalistic and often violent depending on which group of Chosen is calling the shots. The Vvath are more careful, but their system of morality is repellent, involving racism and even slavery.

To be continued…

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Understanding Red Glory

It looks like my next book, Bloodlust: Red Glory will be out in eBook format on Wednesday (or at least submitted to Amazon on that date, sometimes it takes a while for it to propagate). With that in mind, I will be concentrating on discussing and promoting the book for the next few days.

Red Glory is a return to a more unusual format. Readers of my books will be familiar with the basic structure from Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale and Bloodlust: Will to Power, where each chapter is set around a match in Gavin Valcoeur’s career in the arenas of the Domains. Red Glory follows that basic structure, with most chapters being centered around a match in the arena.

The disadvantages of that kind of structure are obvious: it requires a hell of a lot of fight scenes, and such a rigid structure can get in the way of narrative flow. However, many readers enjoyed the episodic, predictable build of the story moving from chapter to chapter almost like a TV series or a connected set of short stories. I decided to return to this for Red Glory, which is another story about the arena, but instead of following a single Gladiator, I follow six fighters seeking to win the ultimate prize.

At its heart Bloodlust: Red Glory is the story of an event. The Grand Championships themselves are a character in the story, at least that is how I see it.

After finishing Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden, I sat back and reflected on what I have wrought and written. The Grand Championships are barely covered in Bloodlust: Will to Power, despite being the pinnacle of the whole series. Gavin gets inserted into them purely through the will of the people and the manipulations of others. In the first books the readers only get to read about his involvement in a single match in the whole event, and in the interludes where Sadira fights Karmal. In retrospect those few chapters do not quite capture the epic scope of the Grand Championships.

Some events shape the societies that celebrate them. The great religious pilgrimages. The state of the Union and massive election campaigns in the states. The moon landings. The Super Bowl, The Olympics, and the World Cup. Each of these events brings the far flung reaches of the civilizations that birthed them together, uniting even the most diverse peoples for a time. They also exhibit particular characteristics. The Olympics foster a sense of fellowship through competition, bringing nations together through sport, but sometimes this competition becomes more than sport. Meanwhile the Super Bowl and the World Cup are rowdy, flashy events where the corporate sponsors are very much in evidence. These attributes give grand events a personality of sorts, which is something that inspired me in Red Glory.

I have already written of how the Great Games are a violent collision of sport, hero worship, and politics. The enemies of the Domains are humble by its Gladiators in ritual combat. The Gladiators, in turn, perform to gain the favour of the people, which is the only way that any Gifted will ever be trusted enough to join the ranks of the Chosen.

But I felt the need to further characterize the games, to breathe life into the Grand Championships. The Grand Championships are the pinnacle of the arena, an event that defines the Domains of the Chosen. Bloodlust: Red Glory is the tale of this event. The Gladiators, the Chosen, and the Citizens, victors and victims both, are caught up in the tide of feverish expectation. Like all such events, the Grand Championships take on a life of their own, crushing some and bringing prosperity to others. It touches everyone, even those who are repulsed by the vicious underpinnings of the fighting grounds. Defining this event in detail gives the reader a better idea of the culture of the Domains.

In the end I needed to write Red Glory to better define the Domains for the series to come. The Domains are modern in some aspects, and we all understand imperialism, but the bloodier aspects of the arena are harder for us to grasp. At the heart of it all lies the fear of the Reckoning, and the covenant that the Chosen made with the people of Krass to survive. Underneath all of the bread and circuses, what can we learn of them?

Teaser Tuesday

Once again it is Tuesday and time for a teaser from my upcoming book, Bloodlust: Red Glory.

This is from the map section… (I left extra space so it does not look busy when I size it down, and to add stuff in other books)

The City of Krass

The City of Krass

  1. The Campus Martius: Gladiators begin their careers in this section of the capital. Think of it as a college campus, but with restricted access. The northern part of the Campus Martius has a series of free public arenas called The Pits.
  2. The Campus Gladius: Young Gifted who choose to become Gladiators learn to fight and wield magic here. Their training is both thorough and brutal. Access is even more restricted than the Campus Martius. Notably even the Chosen, nor the parents of the Gladiators, cannot visit here.
  3. The Grand Market: A huge bazaar where traders from all over the Empire ply their wares. The outer edges of the Bazaar are home to all of the important trading houses that originate outside of Krass.
  4. West Shallows: A residential area made up primarily of tallhouses, large buildings that were made to accommodate the expanding population of the city during the days when Krass was isolated by the storms of the Reckoning.
  5. The Public Beaches: The Coast south of the city has been converted into a beautiful public beach, courtesy of Chosen Giselle who used the gesture to gain support for the expansion of her Domain in the High Assembly.
  6. Headquarters of the Fleet: Military docks, fleet academy, and an enormous lighthouse.
  7. Dockside: An enormous series of commercial docks, warehouses, and port services.
  8. East Shallows: Another area of tallhouses, built on section of land that used to be a swamp.
  9. Portside: A relatively affluent area of residences and businesses, including various factories.
  10. High Park: The ancient mansions of the truly wealthy and powerful, situated in a wonderful, lush park.
  11. The Triumphal Way: The beginnings of the great eastern road that crosses the empire. The Triumphal way is decorated with enormous arches depicting the great victories of the domains.
  12. The Capital Hill: Includes the Grand Parade Square, The Grand Arena, The Hall of the Chosen, The Oathstone, and The High Assembly. The high vantage point and the size of the buildings give this area an impressive skyline.

Teaser Tuesday

Time for a little teaser from my upcoming book, Bloodlust: Red Glory.

The last thorn in his side over the lead-up to the Grand Championships had been trying to take control of the trade in Kirifan narcotics. These had appeared in Krass shortly after the announcement of the coming championships. The most popular of these, Greensalts, could be mixed into food and drink, and was now the drug of choice among anyone who could afford it. Corvian had given up trying to gain control of Greensalts after every person he sent to investigate either disappeared or ended up addicted to the stuff. It was better to cut his losses, for now.

The crowning use of the information had been to inform one of the Chosen. To many Chosen, nothing was more important than the Great Games. They vied against each other to influence which Gladiators would become Champions. To them, the knowledge that an unexpected Grand Championship would soon be held was worth much to them.

Corvian was a Red at heart. He’d grown up in the shadows of the East Shallows Tallhouses. His father had been a Red and his grandfather had been a Red. Corvian stayed true to his roots, even if he was now a wealthy man and the East Shallows streets were long behind him.

Of course he was also a businessman, and although he favoured the Reds for sentimental reasons, the Blues were more realistic about the value of information.

Two of the Ungifted (no magic) characters in the book are involved in organized crime. One, Corvian, comes by this as honestly as one can — it is the best way out of poverty and into wealth for him.

It occurs to me that politics and the underworld are great venues for “normal” people to gain power in an Empire where most of the positions of strength are awarded to the few Gifted who earn the people’s trust. It bears further examination, at least.

After Breaking Bad, it seemed natural to have one of these Characters introduce a new Drug to Krass.

Exposition Teaser

I know it is bad form, but every now and then I still like to sneak in a bit of pure exposition into my writing. Here is a bit from Warbound: The Shield Maiden.

After the Reckoning, when the Legions marched forth for war under the banners of Krass and the Chosen, a promise was made. The Chosen, strong as they might be as individuals, still needed soldiers to fight under their banners. Anyone who served in the Legions, or their surviving spouse and children should they perish, would be given a slice of land on the fertile plains and verdant hills nearest the great city. Those early days were as brutal as they were glorious, and the horrors that Gladiators face in the arena are often but an echo of that struggle. The Legion were mortal men and women facing monsters, undead, and wild magic with nothing more than raw courage, good steel, and ruthlessly efficient teamwork. Most of them found their place among the ancestors and are held in highest honour.

The incentive of fertile, safe land outside the crowded walls of Krass proved successful. After decades of being trapped in the city, many were eager to see the outside world. Others just wanted a chance to start something new – to build a legacy for their children. Even after a thousand years these lands are still reserved for Legionnaires, creating a strong military tradition in the families that live there. Some say it is unfair that children cannot inherit the land if they do not serve as their parents did, even if they do receive some compensation when the land is taken. The Legion has held firm to the old bargain, however.

The people now call these lands The Promise.

Pretty self explanatory. I tend to isolate the exposition so that people can skip it if they want.