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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Magic in Laeryk's Proving: Part Two

Last time I spoke generally about magic and some of the societies supporting it and/or practicing it in Laeryk's Proving. For this entry I want to hone in on the one of the magical Gifts specifically, and talk about what that Gift allows people to do.

First, I'd like to explain a linguistic note regarding the book. The names of the three magical Gifts are part of the "First Tongue," the original language spoken by humanity. You can make parallels to The Wheel of Time's "Old Tongue" if you like; they'll provide excellent context for the First Tongue. One of those conventions is that female-gendered words in the First Tongue have a different suffix than male-gendered words. Male-gendered words and gender-neutral words do not include a specific suffix, while female-gendered words end with an -iin. So when referring individuals with the Saritar Gift (the Gift we'll discuss today), a man would be called a Saritar and a woman would be called a Saritariin. The use of the word Saritar when referring to the Gift itself is neutral. This same convention exists for the other two Gifts.

The Saritar Gift

Each of the three magical Gifts found in humanity focus in some form on the concept of transmutation. In the case of the Saritar Gift, this transmutation involves energy. Saritar and Saritariin are capable of taking an existing form of energy in their vicinity and transmuting it into another form of energy, and then directing that energy. This tends to create a visual effect, making it the flashiest of the three Gifts, often creating the misconception that it is the most powerful of the Gifts. Indeed, many Saritar and Saritariin are guilty of a certain hubris which leaves them believing that their powers are greater than the other Gifted, though this is not measurably true. On the other hand, explaining that to someone who can spontaneously transmute the kinetic and potential energies about them into heat energy, causing a large ball of fire to explode where you are standing, does not often work.

The Saritar Gift is capable of seemingly impossible feats. Effects like throwing fireballs, or bolts of lightning are certainly possible, but these are the crudest forms of using the Saritar power. The Gift's true strength is in its versatility. Saritar and Saritariin can combine multiple types of energy together to create multiple effects at once. A wall of fire with a component of physical force to prevent a trapped foe from escaping. A dome of air which not only stop arrows from striking the Saritar but also redirects the arrows back at the archers. Chains made of lightning which harm the bound victim, but also absorbs the victim's own kinetic energy to intensify the physical force of the chains, making the victim bound more tightly the more they struggle. Those with the Saritar Gift are able to seemingly create energy from nothing (which is untrue, but that is what the common man perceives it as), and require no outside aid or source for their power (unlike the other two Gifts, which require either an elixir or a spirit). This contributes to the mistaken sense of superiority those with the Saritar Gift often feel toward their fellow Gifted. The ultimate expression of the Saritar Gift is the ability to instantaneously travel from one place to another, but this teleportation is used sparingly due to the sheer difficulty in manifesting it (see below).

Weakness of the Saritar Gift

While the Saritar Gift is powerful, and has considerable advantages over the other two magical Gifts practiced by the Triumvirate, it is not without its faults. The most significant problems with this Gift are the emotional problems associated with its users, and the extreme fatigue it places on its Gifted.

Emotional Problems

Each Saritar and Saritariin is said to be "aspected" toward an element. Often, a Saritar will find an affinity for creating and manipulating energy aligned to that aspect. A fire-aspected Saritar might find it easier to transmute energy into heat and light, while an earth-aspected Saritariin may find that using kinetic force to move solids is easier for them. These aspects show no prevalence for gender; there are as many fire-aspected Saritar as there are fire-aspected Saritariin.

In addition to an affinity for manipulating energy related to their elemental aspect, Saritar and Saritariin also demonstrate common emotional traits linked to their aspects. As an example, Those with the Saritar Gift who are aspected toward fire tend to have fierce tempers, and are often angry at something. These emotional extremes are often severe, and often represent a danger to humanity. An angry, ill-tempered Saritar with an affinity for creating fire is generally not a positive thing for their community. One area of focus for Saritar and Saritariin undergoing training with the Triumvirate is gaining control over their aspect's emotional influence. This can never completely banish the effect - fire-aspected Saritar and Saritariin will always have short tempers and generally angry dispositions - but can help to minimize the effect or at least allow the Gifted to recognize the influence of their aspect on their emotions and hopefully allow them to look past it. Still, even other Gifted dislike having to bring bad news to a fire-aspect for fear of the reaction it may provoke.

Here is a list of the common elemental-aspects and their emotional effects displayed by Saritar and Saritariin:
  • Fire: Fire-aspects are short tempered and angry individuals. They often snap at others or lose control of themselves in tense situations and feel that their Gift is stronger when used in anger. They often describe their Gift as a ball of fiery rage within themselves.
  • Lightning: While not a "classic" element, Saritar and Saritariin with an affinity toward electrical effects are common enough to label this as an element. Just as lightning strikes in the flash of an eye, lightning-aspects are constantly in motion and are often impatient. They tend to grow frustrated that others cannot keep up with them. Their words sometimes run together because they are in such a hurry to get them out. Their Gift is often described as a tingling sensation running through their entire body, forcing them to keep moving.
  • Earth: Earth-aspects tend to be stubborn and resolute. Once their mind is made up it is nearly impossible to change it. This makes them loyal friends and resolute enemies. Unfortunately, just as breaking through a stone wall often leaves the wall in ruin, events which cause earth-aspects to reevaluate their position on things often leave them nearly powerless with doubt. Their Gift is often described as resolute conviction.
  • Water: Water-aspects often seem to be calm and at peace. They are in no hurry; everything will get taken care of in its own time and place. This is a dangerous misperception. Water-aspects are an example of extremes. When at peace they are calm as still water. When they are riled, they become as turbulent and fierce as a storm at sea. Many water-aspects try to emphasize serenity in their lives to avoid the chaotic maelstrom which can result when they are upset. Water-aspects also run the risk of crippling melancholy and depression. They describe their Gift as a vessel filled with liquid.
  • Air: At one time, air-aspects and lightning-aspects were confused for one another. Air aspects like to keep themselves busy, to always be doing something. They aren't necessarily in a hurry to complete their task, they simply don't like having idle time on their hands, leading them to maintain a large number of projects at once so that they will always have something to work on. They also tend to dislike silence, filling it with words, leading many to believe that air-aspects babble. In truth, most are content if the air around them is filled with the sound of their work, but not all are so easily placated. This has caused some air-aspects to suggest that their is a "Sound-Aspect" emerging, but no serious credence has been given to this theory. Yet. Air-aspects describe their Gift as a sense of lightness and the constant feeling of a cool breeze at their backs.

Each of the Gifts require a source of energy to power their transmutations. For the Saritar and Saritariin, this energy comes from within themselves, investing a small measure of their own lifeforce into their powers. Normally those with the Saritar Gift are careful about how much energy they channel through their Gift, allowing them plenty of time to recuperate from its use but in times of duress, such as battle, they can drain their own lifeforces to dangerous levels. This drain is the largest limitation on the abilities of the Saritar and Saritariin; they are capable of amazing effects, but may lack the personal ability to sustain them, or even enough energy to safely create the effect in the first place. For example, theoretically it is possible for any Saritar or Saritariin to fly, but in reality it is such a complicated and taxing procedure that many would be unable to even lift themselves off the ground, and those who could would quickly lose the ability to sustain their flight. Conversely, creating discs of force to use as steps is a much easier effect, allowing a Saritar to ascend when needed, but requiring them to use regular human locomotion to actually move. Similarly, creating a bolt of lightning to strike a single foe is simple; creating a storm of lightning to strike at an entire army is simply too much for any Saritar or Saritariin to handle.

To combat this disadvantage inherent in their Gifts, the Triumvirate has developed a technique for creating a physical vessel to store energy from one or more Gifts. These vessels can then be used to cause an effect specific to the vessel. The common name for these vessels are "spellspheres." While they are difficult to create, the Triumvirate still produces a steady amount of spellspheres, specifically to allow members of the Triumvirate to quickly return to its halls each year so that they can prove they have adhered to the Triumvirate's laws while away. Anyone with even a slight Saritar Gift may use a spellsphere, but they must be trained in the spellsphere's use; misusing a spellsphere will result in the energy being catastrophically released, unleashing destruction to a wide area. Spellspheres used for instantaneous transportation contain enough energy to annihilate a city. Obviously, the Triumvirate tightly regulates the possession and use of spellspheres to prevent any accidents from happening; thus far, they have been successful.

Weak Saritar Gifted

The Triumvirate sends out its members to test children for signs of Gifts on a regular basis, particularly in Fardan, where such tests are held multiple times a year. One of their main justifications for this is that even if a child possesses a Saritar Gift considered too weak for the Triumvirate to train (in other words, even minor transmutations would nearly kill the Gifted), these children still possess the aspects and associated emotional issues that stronger Gifted share. Parents of such children are offered a choice by the Triumvirate; they may send the child to Fardan to receive training on controlling these emotional problems, or the Triumvirate representatives will attempt to teach the parents some techniques which might help their children cope with their aspect's influence.

Children sent to Fardan are often offered a further choice. They can choose to simply learn what they need to and return home, or they can stay and join the Triumvirate's Legionnaires, which is made up entirely of men and women whose Saritar Gift was too weak for training. Each Legionnaire is tattooed with special sigils designed to store and enhance the energy naturally channeled through their Saritar Gift. While the Legionnaires still lack the ability to transmute energy in the way "full" Saritar and Saritariin can, the energy from these sigils can be fed back into the Legionnaire's body, giving them bursts of enhanced strength, speed, reflexes, and perception. This ability, combined with extensive combat training, makes the Legionnaire's some of the deadliest infantry in the world. The Triumvirate uses the Legionnaires to help defend both itself and Fardan, and also to hunt for servants of the Surok'tarn. Being offered the opportunity to become a Legionnaire is considered a great honor for both the parents and the child in Fardan, though children from other lands often don't see it that way. Almost every child from Fardan agrees to join; recruitment from other nations is small.

Legionnaires suffer from the same risk of expending too much of their lifeforce as other Saritar and Saritariin, though their sigils help minimize this risk by creating a reserve of energy for them to use. A Legionnaire who has exhausted the energy in their sigils can continue trying to empower themselves, but they will quickly exhaust their lifeforce since their Gifts cannot channel it effectively. Legionnaires who have exhausted their sigils also tend to find themselves less effective in combat, as their training has assumed they will possess the enhancements to their speed and strength. Experienced Legionnaires often focus more on their training to offset the risk of their sigils running out of power.

As a side note, there have been several experiments to see if the using similar sigils on "full" Saritar and Saritariin can create a reserve of power for the Gifted which would allow them expand their abilities. In all instances, these sigils curtailed the Saritar Gift almost entirely, and further study into this area has been stopped by the Triumvirate.

The Other Gifts

One of the things which has lead the Triumvirate to believe that the magical Gifts are related to one another is the possibility of Gifted possessing more than one Gift. This is not a common thing, but it is not unknown. In all cases but one, each Gifted has a Gift which acts as their primary Gift, leaving their secondary Gift considerably weaker. Only the Triumvirate's leader, the Arakon, possesses all three Gifts, each at equal strength, and the Arakon is aberration the Triumvirate cannot recreate.

Saritar and Saritariin who possess an additional Gift most commonly possess the Vordanitar Gift, the Gift of Compelling Spirits. In most cases, this Gift is only strong enough to allow the Gifted to see spirits, though a very rare few Saritar and Saritariin can Compel minor spirits. This is almost always regarded as a useless ability by those with the Saritar Gift, as its effectiveness is negligible when compared to the power of their Saritar Gift. There is no record of a Saritar ever possessing the Alkesarim Gift, though it is commonly accepted that such a Gift combination must have happened, perhaps before the formation of the Triumvirate. There are other theories which say that the Sharynwyn Marshes probably has Saritar and Saritariin with the Alkesarim Gift, but the lack of communication with the Sharynwyn people make this difficult to confirm.

Kickstarter Update: My kickstarter project for Laeryk's Proving is now live! To take a look at it, go to this link:

Next Time: Part 3 of our series on magic, focusing on the Alkesarim Gift!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Magic in Laeryk's Proving: Part One

Most fantasies have some form of magic, and Laeryk's Proving is no exception. In Laeryk's Proving, magic comes in a variety of forms. The most common magic in the world are the magical "Gifts" practiced by humanity. I'll be making separate posts for each of the various types of magic, but today's post will concern itself more with who is practicing magic.

The largest organization formally practicing magic is the Triumvirate, an association Gifted humans who police the world of Laeryk's Proving to make certain that the Gifts are not being abused, and to make certain that the servants of the entities known as the Surok'tarn are kept from returning their masters to the world. The Triumvirate is based in the nation of Fardan where it maintains its Academy. In several nations, including Fardan, Deldanare, Coribhal and Haddar, many children undergo testing at an early age to identify whether they possess any of the three Gifts. Children identified with sufficiently strong Gifts are often recruited to come to the Academy where they are trained to master their powers. In Fardan, where the Triumvirate wields extreme political power, even those children with weak Gifts are often sent to the Academy, where they are trained to become the Triumvirate's Legionnaires, the armed muscle of the Triumvirate.

The Triumvirate is ruled by a single Gifted, the Arakon. Each Arakon possesses all three of the Gifts (whereas few Gifted have more than even one Gift), and is tasked both with leading the Triumvirate and with maintaining a constant vigil to watch for signs the Surok'tarn are returning. Each Arakon lives until their successor has been found and trained to assume their duties, no matter how long this process takes. The current Arakon is a wizened old man named Alchamedus, and has lived for over three hundred years, far longer than any other Arakon before him. Alchamedus appears to have lost interest in directly leading the Triumvirate, concentrating all of his energies on his vigil, and leading the Council of Three to rule in his absence. The Council of Three is made up of the three leaders of each of the Gifts in the Triumvirate, and traditionally only act as advisers to the Arakon. The current Council of Three appear to find Alchamedus' absent quite to their liking, and some wonder if they would return power to the Arakon if he demanded it.

While the Triumvirate makes up the bulk of humanity's Gifted, it has found itself unable to infiltrate into the land known as the Sharynwyn Marshes. The Sharynwyn people are ruled by their so-called Witch Queen. Each Witch Queen is a powerful Gifted in her own right, and has always been adamant that the Triumvirate stay out of the affairs of the Sharynwyn Marshes. The Witch Queen's most loyal servants, warriors called the Hunters of the Slain, are a match for the Triumvirate's Legionnaires; the Triumvirate respects that the losses it would incur should it press the issue of the Sharynwyn Marsh's independence from its direction is far more than they consider reasonable. Meanwhile, no one, not even the Arakon, knows what goes on inside the borders of the Sharynwyn Marshes. Whispers in the halls of the Triumvirate say that the Sharynwyn had discovered Gifts no one else has ever dreamed of. If this is so, the Witch Queen keeps it hidden.

Next Time: Part Two will cover the first of the magical Gifts, the Saritar Gift.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Noble Houses of Valdaran

Descended from the greatest warriors of the original six clans which made up the Valdaran people, the Noble Houses of Valdaran have become miniature clans unto themselves in the modern day. The majority of the Houses require that the head of the House be an active Wyvern Knight, though knights who have retired from active duty retain great influence and prestige within their Houses.

While every Wyvern Knight is a noble, not all of the knights are of noble birth or even belong to the Houses. The Allking sponsors a tournament every five years to allow commoners of exceptional talent to demonstrate their abilities for members of the Houses. The winners of the tournaments often are adopted or sponsored by one House or another, becoming squires to prominent knights belonging to the House and eventually earning a Proving of their own to become a new knight.

Rather than describe every House in Valdaran, here are some of the major Houses whose members either have an impact on the story of Laeryk's Proving, or are names of note in the setting.


House Wyverncrown is not, technically, one of the Houses, but no one would dispute the noble status of its members. The Wyverncrowns are the royal family of Valdaran, tracing their heritage all the way back to the original Allking, Korvaft. Each Allking must be a Wyvern Knight, though customarily each Allking takes their own heir as their squire, violating the tradition most Houses have of fostering their children with other Houses as squires. Currently, Wodan Wyvercrown is Allking of Valdaran. His son, Ragnar, and his daughter, Freya, are the only other living members of House Wyverncrown. Flying in the face of tradition, Ragnar Wyverncrown, heir to the throne, has become betrothed to Elsebet du Lemaigne of Deldanare. This has caused some concern among the leaders of the Houses, who feel that Ragnar will be polluting the lineage of Korvaft with the blood of an outlander.


House Whiterose is the most powerful House in Valdaran, second only to the Wyverncrowns. The Whiteroses can trace their lineage back to one of Korvaft's brothers, which makes them a "Cousin" House. While any trace of familial connection has long since vanished, the two Houses remain close. Whiteroses are often considered suitable candidates to marry the Allking or their heirs. The Whiteroses also maintain many of the wyvern aviaries in Valdaran, establishing a connection with the wyverns that make many of the other Houses jealous.

The Whiteroses have a strong military tradition, boasting the largest number of active Wyvern Knights in their ranks in all of Valdaran. Whiteroses have been Wing Lords and have held places of honor in each of the five Wings. The current Wing Lord of Silver Wing is a Whiterose. Each Whiterose competes to distinguish themselves from both their ancestors and the other children of the House, resulting in many stories and legends of the exploits of famous Whiteroses. Perhaps the most famous of the Whiteroses is no longer considered a member of the House, having been banished from the House for treason (see House Thorn for more information).

Currently, Vikar Whiterose holds the most influence within House Whiterose. Though he was forced to retire from active duty as a Wyvern Knight after suffering an injury that nearly killed him, Vikar Whiterose's ambition has led him to acquire tremendous political power within Valdaran. This power and influence allowed Vikar Whiterose's son Gavain to be raised closely with the Wyvercrowns, to the point that Ragnar Wyverncrown and Gavain refer to each other as cousins.


Another of the "Cousin" Houses, House Icehart once held a controlling interest in the mines of Valdaran, but their fortunes have waned of late after disease killed off the majority of the House's members. The most prestigious member of the House currently is Arngrim Icehart, who only passed his Proving two years ago but has earned prestige during several missions as a member of Bronze Wing. Some wonder what the fate of House Icehart will be, while other worry at the sudden interest Vikar Whiterose has taken in the ailing House.


House Wyvernclaw is a new House, founded when Wing Lord Garon Wyvernclaw passed his Proving. Garon Wyvernclaw was a commoner whose family sacrificed nearly everything they had to earn their son a chance to compete at the Allking's tournament. Garon won the competition and Cradden Thorn had offered to take Garon as his squire. Garon went on to become nearly family with the Thorns, and best friends with Cradden's son, Derris. Garon's potential was evident to everyone, and it came as no surprise when he was made second in command of Steel Wing, and eventually Steel Wing's Wing Lord. Garon took the name "Wyvernclaw" as an homage to owing his success to the opportunity the Allking's tournament afforded him. House Wyvernclaw has earned a modest income, though nearly all of its influence is due to Garon's position as a Wing Lord. Having never married, Garon Wyvernclaw has no heir.


While it lacks the prestige of many of the other Houses, no House is as well-known as House Thorn, the House born of treason. Valdaran had been invaded only twice since its founding, once by the Morkavian Empire, and once by the vile, inhuman Naelfarn. While Valdaran repelled the Morkavians, the Naelfarn managed to reach the capital of Wyvernholme and nearly destroy it, all thanks to the treason of one man: Jellik Whiterose.

Jellik Whiterose had been second in command of Silver Wing, and one of the most renowned Wyvern Knights of his day. Each of his sons was a Wyvern Knight, and anyone fortunate enough to become Jellik's squire was certain to earn great prestige upon passing their Proving. No one would have suspected that such a renowned knight would betray Valdaran, but at some point Jellik Whiterose made contact with the Naelfarn and agreed to help them attack Valdaran under the condition that Jellik be made the new Allking. Jellik recruited a surprisingly large number of Wyvern Knights to join him, while the Naelfarn used foul magic to keep the rogue knights' wyverns under control. All of Jellik's sons joined him except for one, Allynder Whiterose, who tried to convince his father to abandon the mad scheme. Allynder's words fell on deaf ears, and the young knight was unable to stop his father from killing the Allking during the invasion. Allynder was able to stop his father from killing the heir to the throne however, fighting a duel with his father made famous in song. Allynder slew his father, and offered both Jellik's head and his own to the new Allking in penance for his failure to alert the Wyvernthrone of the danger his father had posed. The new Allking spared Allynder's life in exchange for Allynder uniting the remaining Wings to stop the rebel knights. After Allynder had crushed the rebellion, Allking Tyrnan granted him his pardon, but included the condition that Allynder step down as a Wyvern Knight. Allynder agreed, but House Whiterose was unsatisfied with the gesture. They declared that neither Jellik nor any of his sons were members of the House, but had become "thorns" in the side of Valdaran.

Proud to the end, Allynder decided to accept the name, and encouraged his own children to strive to become knights. Allynder Thorn lived long enough to watch one of his grandchildren pass their Proving and establish House Thorn.

The Thorns have remained a modest House throughout the years. It retains a stigma from the actions of Jellik Thorn, though few who have served beside a Wyvern Knight from House Thorn can dispute their commitment to the throne or their fellow knights. In recent years it had looked as though House Thorn was on the verge of finally shedding the dark cloud hanging over its reputation, but the death of its most recent leader, Derris Thorn twelve years ago brought everything to a halt. Derris Thorn's son, Laeryk, was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in House Frostwind, and the modest coffers of House Thorn were drained by the greedy Frostwinds. Thorn Manor was sold to the crown to pay for House Frostwind's taxes. While Laeryk Thorn was squired to his uncle, Belok Frostwind, he has spent the last twelve years without earning a Proving from his uncle, and many doubt that he will earn one by the time of his twenty-first birthday, when he will become ineligible to become a Wyvern Knight, ending House Thorn completely. There are some who look at the darkly intense gaze of Laeryk Thorn and wonder if this would be such a bad thing...

Next Time: A discussion about magic in Laeryk's Proving!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Setting Overview: Valdaran Part 2

In my last post I started to talk about the history of Valdaran, the homeland of Laeryk Thorn and Gavain Whiterose, two of the main characters in my upcoming book, Laeryk's Proving. Today I'm going to continue with the history of Valdaran, and how it became one of the military powers in the world.

If you'll recall, the Allking of Valdaran had formed the Wyvern Knights to serve as a way to unify the noble Houses and heal the rift that still remained after the clan wars which had troubled Valdaran in its earliest days. To solve the shortage of supplies that the Valdaran people faced every winter, the Wyvern Knights were sent to raid the neighboring kingdom of Deldanare.

Under the rule of the Valdaran's second Allking, Hrothnir Korvaftsson, the raids into Deldanare increased. The five Wing Lords and many of the Valdaran nobles advocated invading Deldanare and annexing some of its farmlands. Allking Hrothnir resisted this idea, feeling that the rugged nature of their mountainous Valdaran homeland kept the Wyvern Knights from growing as soft as the Deldanari. The debate raged on until something happened which startled the Allking's entire court.

Princess Elouise du Lemaigne, eldest daughter of the king of Deldanare, came to the Valdaran capital of Wyvernholme to request a meeting with the Allking. Hrothnir was impressed with the bravery of the Deldanari princess, and granted Elouise the audience she requested. Princess Elouise spent days eloquently pleading that Hrothnir call for the raids on her homeland to cease, begging for an alliance between the two nations. She even went so far as to suggest a marriage between herself and Hrothnir to cement relations between their nations. Hrothnir's response was to order the princess taken captive and sending a ransom demand to her father.

The demand never arrived. Far to the south, the Morkavian Empire had begun a campaign to conquer the known world. Their armies had marched forward and conquered the city-states south of the Wastes, and then continued their march into Deldanare. The Deldanari military had been weakened by the Valdaran raids, though it is questionable whether they would have been strong enough to repel the Morkavians even without the assaults from the Wyvern Knights. King Franc du Lemaigne fled east into Valdaran, demanding asylum from the Morkavian invaders. At first Hrothnir laughed at the proposal, but word from the border quickly changed the Allking's mind.

While the Deldanari had been unable to resist the raids by the Valdarans, the Morkavians were a different matter. The Morkavian military possessed power siege weapons which proved a threat to even wyvern-mounted warrior. For the first time ever, the Wyvern Knights' raids were stopped. To make matters worse, the Morkavians even began making incursions through the low passes that led into Valdaran itself.

Incensed, Hrothnir agreed to aid Franc du Lemaigne in reclaiming his throne, though he kept Princess Elouise as a hostage to ensure the good behavior of the Deldanari king. With the aid of the Wyvern Knights, Franc du Lemaigne was able to rally his people into resisting the Morkavians. Supported by ground troops who concentrated on destroying the Morkavian siege weapons, the Wyvern Knights quickly routed the invaders, restoring Deldanare to its people. The nations of Valdaran, Coribhal, and Fardan united to drive the Morkavians back to their own borders, liberating all of the land the Empire had claimed, and shattering the remnants of the empire into the nations of Morkav, Haddar, and Nadyss.

During the last days of the fighting, Franc du Lemaigne fell in battle while saving the life of Allking Hrothnir. Honored at the sacrifice the Deldanari king had made for him, Hrothnir released Elouise, whom he had grown fond of, and placed her on the throne of Deldanare. He would have considered her request for marriage, but the Wing Lords forbade it, warning Hrothnir not to dilute purity of the Valdaran royal line. Hrothnir coneded to their words, but struck a new treaty with Elouise. Henceforth, the second sons and second daughters of both royal families would marry every five generations. Deldanare helped supply Valdaran with the resources its people needed to survive the harsh winters, while Valdaran agreed to send its Wyvern Knights to defend Deldanare from any attacks on its sovereignty or its people.

Kickstarter Update: The Laeryk's Proving project page will be going live on the Kickstarter website within the next week, possibly sooner depending how long the approval process takes. I'll post an update as soon as it is available.

Next Time: I'll discuss the noble Houses of Valdaran, and the origins of House Thorn.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Setting Overview: Valdaran Part 1

Last time I said that I would talk a little about the setting of Laeryk's Proving. Today's post is going to talk about Valdaran, the nation where two of our protagonists, Laeryk Thorn and Gavain Whiterose, hail from. Valdaran plays a central role throughout the series.

Records of the earliest days of what would come to be known as Valdaran have been lost to prehistory. No Valdaran can recount when the first humans crossed into the mountain range called the Wyvern Peaks and first encountered the wyverns. Nor can even the most venerable of Wyvern Knights now recall the stories which tell of how man and wyvern came to form an alliance with one another. What is known, is that in the oldest days, the people of Valdaran were split into six large clans, each allied with the wyverns.

The early Valdarans were constantly at war with one another. The Wyvern Peaks dominated the landscape, leaving few fertile valleys for growing crops and grazing animals. Survival was a constant concern for the Valdaran Clans, and each sought to claim the supplies of their rivals. Allegiances were made, broken, and forged anew as the clans struggled against each other.

Korvaft, the Jarl of the clan with what were arguably the strongest ties to the wyverns whom the Valdarans depended upon for their raids, eventually became aware of the wyverns' growing distress at the warring clans. He realized that while the clans' warlike natures were sated by the bloodshed, the wyverns mourned the actions their alliance with humanity was driving them to. The wyverns had no desire to fight one another, nor did they want to pick a single clan to support. Korvaft realized that if something wasn't done to stop the clans' wars soon, the wyverns would abandon their human allies, dooming all the clans.

Korvaft called the other five Jarls to a meeting and presented his concerns. At first the Jarls scorned Korvaft, believing that their wyvern allies would never abandon them. When Korvaft offered his solution to his concerns, however, the Jarls took immediate note of it. Korvaft suggested that the Jarls battle one another personally. The winner of this melee would be declared the strongest Jarl, and become Allking over all six clans. Each Jarl agreed to this contest, each believing himself to be the strongest.

When the fierce battles came to a close, Korvaft stood triumphant. The Jarls honored their words, and bowed before the first Allking. To their surprise, Korvaft announced that he considered each of the Jarls to be like brothers, each only slightly below the Allking in rank. The honor Korvaft showed them helped to salve the bruised egos of the Jarls, allowing Korvaft to gain their support for the next part of his plan. Korvaft knew that if his people were allowed to remain in their clans it would only be a matter of time before the fighting started again. Instead, Korvaft commanded each of the Jarls to bring their finest warriors to him. Once the warriors were assembled, Korvaft ordered each warrior to found noble houses which would help to oversee food and supplies for his people, now called Valdarans.

Korvaft's plan worked, though relations were still tenuous between the noble Houses, particularly those whose founders had once belonged to rival clans. Resources were still scarce in Korvaft's kingdom of Valdaran, even with everyone pooling their supplies together. Seeing no other way to survive, Korvaft set his gaze to the lands surrounding the Wyvern Peaks. To the south lay the Wastes, a desolate, dry wasteland contained within a bowl-like recess in the earth, a reminder of humanity's earlier wars against the inhuman Naelfarn which had once dwelt there. The Wastes would provide nothing to the Valdarans, and the lands to the south of the Wastes were too far for raids, even with the wyverns' aid.

To the west, however, lay the land of Deldanare. Full of fertile land, abundant with crops and livestock, Deldanare was ripe with the resources the Valdarans needed to survive. The people who dwelt with Deldanare, the Deldanari, were less than imposing to the Valdarans, who were among the largest of people in the world, while the Deldanari were, on average, considered somewhat short. Korvaft knew that the Deldanari would never be able to stop raiding parties from the Valdarans. Indeed, the largest threat to the raiding parties were the rivalries that still existed among the Valdaran Houses.

Developing another plan to bring peace to his people, Korvaft summoned the leaders of the noble Houses, including the former Jarls to his court. There, Korvaft announced that he was creating a unified military force for Valdaran, one which would fly on the backs of wyverns. He would split this military into five different "Wings," and each Wing would be commanded by one of the five former Jarls until such time as these new Wing Lords chose to step down and promote a replacement. Each Wing would focus on a different specialty. Further, Korvaft declared that the Wing Lords could counter the commands of the Allking if they voted with a single voice, giving his former rivals true power within Valdaran again. The new Wing Lords accepted their positions, but expressed concern for Korvaft's plan. "How," they asked him in private, "is this any different from the clans you worked so hard to end?" Korvaft ordered them to create their Wings from different Houses than the ones which had originally been in their former clan, so that the Wings would consist of members of each of the former clans. After that, Korvaft assured the Wing Lords that placing emphasis on the different Wings' specialties would create a sense of shared pride which would encourage the ranks of each Wing to work together, while ties of blood would keep them connected to the members of other Wings.

Though still dubious of the plan, the Wing Lords followed the command of their Allking and formed the Wyvern Knights as he had commanded. Korvaft's wisdom is recognized in modern Valdaran, where the old clans are barely remembered now, but the Wyvern Knights and the five Wings and Wing Lords still command the respect and devotion of the Valdaran people.

The newly founded Wyvern Knights began their raids into Deldanare, which were as successful as Korvaft had hoped. The raids kept his people strong, while also providing the Valdarans with an outlet to express their warlike natures. Unbeknownst to Korvaft, however, the raids into Deldanare would have a greater impact on the future of Valdaran than he could have ever imagined, though the change would not happen until the reign of his son, Hrothnir Korvaftsson.

But that is a story for another time...

Next Time: More information about Valdaran and the impact of its raids into Deldanare.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Status for Laeryk's Proving

My last post rambled on a bit longer than I'd intended, so I didn't get the chance to post the current status for Laeryk's Proving.

The manuscript for Laeryk's Proving is complete, coming in at approximately 147,000 words. I've actually compiled the book in epub and mobi formats. Technically, it is ready to be released for sale.


But as any book seller will tell you, the pages inside a book aren't what makes a potential buyer stop to look at the book. They lack the ability to grab a passer-by's collar and "Hey, I'm damn good, READ ME!!!" And if they could, who would want to go inside a book store? I already feel like my shelves groan enough just from the weight of the books; their potential collapse and the resulting "landslide" is more than enough threat for me, thank you very much. So what makes us stop and give that book a first and then a second glance?

The cover.

Beautiful, glossy images boldly declaring the author and title of the book, and offering us a visual scene which may (or, seemingly just as often, not) have something to do with the book's contents. These are the things that make us stop and glance at books we might otherwise never spare even a cursory first look.

One of my favorite authors that I've read over the last few years is Brent Weeks. If you haven't heard of him, Brent Weeks wrote the Night Angel Trilogy and the second book of his Lightbringer series releases today (if you want more information, check out - you won't be disappointed!). My first encounter with his books was in the local Borders Books before it closed. His books were a staff pick, and had been given a place of honor on an endcap. The cover for the first book, The Way of Shadows, is fairly simple, but eye-catching. A black-cloaked an stands partially visible on the cover, set against a white background, his weapons drawn while streams of purple mist or fog rise from his body. The font for the title is nothing fancy, and a single tagline "The perfect killer has no friends - only targets." helps grab your attention immediately. The other books in the trilogy are similar in style.

I walked past them. Twice. They caught my eye each time. Finally, I stopped to look at the back of the book, where I read about a boy named Azoth who gets trained to be an assassin by the greatest killer in his city. I put it back on the shelf. Assassins aren't really my thing, so the idea of reading a trilogy dedicated to them wasn't appealing. One of my best friends, however, loves assassins. I wrote the title of the book down so I could recommend it to him, and ended up checking the book out at my local library so that I could give him an informed opinion. That was when the words inside the book grabbed me, shook me around a little, and left me wanting MORE. And thus, I became a Brent Weeks fan.

But it all started with a cover that caught my eye.

His books were displayed on an endcap. Three smart covers, each roughly 4 inches by 7 inches. How could I not have noticed them? I'll tell you how - if they were just thumbnails on my screen. Which is what I'm going to be dealing with. Thumbnails are small, and depending on your eReader device, possibly done in grayscale. They need to be eye-catching, but simple. "No problem," you might think. "There are plenty of talented artists who can produce that for you!" Indeed there are... but you need the money to pay them.

It's possible to design a cover without hiring someone to do it. You need the right software; fortunately, GIMP is 100% free, and something I've used for simple projects in the past. But you need images to do anything with GIMP. I'm no artist, at least not with visual images. I can scratch out something that people will interpret to be a face (it's really a chicken - I'm that bad at drawing!) but I can't produce anything worth putting on the cover of my book. My wife is actually pretty talented at drawing, but she's got her plate full with schoolwork at the moment. Which has left me look for royalty-free stock images I can use to create my cover, which is taking longer than I'd thought it would.

Beyond getting a cover (which I've devoted most of this post to talking about), I still need to acquire the ISBN numbers for my book, and I'd really like to run my eventual cover design through a professional graphics designer to make certain it's eye-catching. All of this costs money, money, and - you guessed it - more money. With a family of five, money's always in tight supply, so I'm looking for sources of outside funding.

Which leads me to my plans for trying to raise the funds I need for Laeryk's Proving through Kickstarter. If you're not familiar with it, Kickstarter is a program which allows people to pledge money toward a project. Various entrepreneurs create a project on the Kickstarter website ( and offers certain incentives for individuals who pledge at certain levels toward their project. If you've ever listened to your local NPR station during their fund drives, you've heard of this concept. It's just like when the NPR station offers you a gift for your donation of $100, or whatever dollar amount they've assigned to the gift. In most Kickstarter projects you have a scale of gifts; Get x for a $5 pledge, y for $25, z for $50, and so on and so forth. Each project has a set amount of money it is looking to raise, and Kickstarter only takes pledge money once the goal is reached, though it is certainly possible for the goal to be exceeded.

I'm determining my incentive levels and how much I feel that I need to raise now, and I would like at least a mock concept for the cover before I post, that way I can help grab the eyes of potential pledges. I feel like a contestant in the Hunger Games. Quick, someone set me on fire!

Once the Kickstarter project is up, I will post the address. Until then, I'll keep posting updates about the cover, and maybe an image or two once they're available!

Next Time: I'll present some information about the setting of Laeryk's Proving, specifically the nation of Valdaran where our hero hails from!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Laeryk's Proving: What It Is, and Where It Is Going


Today I'd like to talk about Laeryk's Proving, my first novel, and how I conceived of it.

The seeds for Laeryk's Proving first came to my mind as part of a scene which popped into my head one morning. I visualized a group of fantasy characters in the midst of a climactic battle with a horrific monster. The main character, who was little more than a random image in my head, was charging headlong into battle with the beast, while a supporting character flew around the monster's head, riding on the back of a wyvern and shooting crossbow bolts at the monster from a crossbow mounted to the gauntlet on his right arm. It's been so long now that the original scene is fuzzy and hazy. I don't think I can accurately describe it any more, so you'll just need to take my word on this: It was a really cool action scene.

This scene grabbed my attention and demanded that I figure out the story which came before it. I went to work trying to piece the story together. I decided that the best place to start was that central hero charging the monster. Who was he? Why was he fighting this monster? What made him interesting? What were his goals?

To this day, I have no idea, because I never solved any of those questions.

See, my mind refused to focus on what I thought of as the "main character." It centered on that wyvern-flying knight. What was up with the wyvern? The crossbow on his arm? What did he want? Was he part of a knightly order? If so, what were the goals of his order? So on and so forth my thoughts went, until I realized the reason why.

The knight was the main character, not that other, nameless guy.

That was when Laeryk Thorn was conceived.

Flash forward a bit. I'm a Star Wars geek. I love the movies, I love the games, I love the roleplaying games. The books... well, let's just say that my Expanded Universe is a little more "conservative" than what the literature would say is cannon. Anyway, that aside, I was watching a lot of Star Wars with my kids. They were getting into the Clone Wars cartoon and I was showing the films. One day we were watching Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith back to back and I realized something.

I fundamentally hate the way Lucas turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. I hate it. I loathe it. I cannot believe, for an instant, that no one on the Jedi Council didn't recognize that Anakin was completely and totally damaged goods. I can't believe that Obi Wan was supposed to be SHOCKED by Anakin's transformation. Maybe it was the acting. It wasn't... well, let's just say that "range of emotions" does not describe that character. I found it hard to believe that there was anything ever worth redeeming about Anakin Skywalker, which really upset my love for the original movies.

"There has to be a way to show the fall of a hero that makes the audience sympathize with the villain he or she becomes in a way that they don't feel the villain needs redeemed," I thought. I didn't want an anti-hero. I wanted a villain, a bad guy, unrepentant, unashamed, firm in his conviction. I wanted someone an audience could root for while simultaneously wanting him to lose.

Meet Laeryk Thorn, a guy whose destiny does not end in anything resembling "nice." But how will the audience sympathize with him? How will they think that he's anything but a jerk who needs to be taken down by another hero?

By making him a hero first. By showing the readers and the audience why he was a hero and why he fell from grace.

That was when Laeryk's Proving started taking shape, as well as the rest of the Saga of Thorns. This will be a story told over four books which will show Laeryk's rise to being a hero, and his fall into villainy. But more on all of that later.

Next Time: The current status of Laeryk's Proving, and what's going to happen next!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


A warm welcome to everyone who finds this site. My name is Grant Hoeflinger, and I am a writer.

As the little bar off to the left says, I've wanted to be a writer since some time in the second grade. The form of writing has gone through changes and permutations over the years. First, I was going to go into journalism. Then I wanted to do screenwriting. For a while, I thought about trying my hand at writing for advertising. No matter what form my goal took at any one time however, I always had one clear goal that I was striving for:

I want people to read, and enjoy, my stories.

For a time I expressed this desire through roleplaying games, designing and running stories for my friends to play through. As much as I love the hobby, it never completely scratched the itch I felt. I wanted more. I wanted to write books. I would finish reading a book from one of my favorite authors and think, "That was great. I want to be able to do the same thing for others."

(OK, so maybe I didn't think those EXACT words, but I'm sure you get the sentiment.)

As often happens in life, the realities of the world seemed to always stand in the way of my writing. You need money to pay the bills, and between work, trying to socialize, and developing a family, there never seemed enough time to sit down and actually work on anything. I always said things like, "Once things are calmer, I'll be able to get started."

Folks, my family consists of myself, my wife (Lisa), three kids ranging from the tweens to the just-out-of-toddler, and three pets. Things are never "calmer." Never.

Then life provided me with an opportunity. You know that old saying, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?" My lemon ended with me staying at home watching our youngest child. The job market stank. I went to interviews, but couldn't seem to land anything. My brain kept pumping out scenes and ideas to grab my attention and think "wouldn't these make great stories?" Then I had a sudden realization.

Things weren't calmer, but I had time. Lots of it. I needed to take advantage of the time I had. I sat down and started writing...

... and writing...

... and writing...

... and -- you get the idea, right?

Now, after what seems like forever, all that writing has culminated in what will be both my first book and also my first attempt at self-publishing. There's only a few more things to do before Laeryk's Proving is ready to go out on the market, and I'd love for everyone to take that journey with me, one step at a time.

Next Time: My next post will discuss Laeryk's Proving a bit more, and the steps I still need to take before it will be available.