Phoenix Rising Spoilers

SPOILERS for PHOENIX RISING

This page will contain multiple entries of information which may be directly or indirectly spoilery, or simply too detailed and nitty-gritty of the world to just put into the front page.

 

World Notes: Magic on Zarathan

     Magic follows many esoteric rules and comes in many different guises, even though – at its core – it is the same basic power being used. Nonetheless, Magic can be divided into a relatively few broad categories, as detailed below.

General Notes on Magic

     While there are – as detailed later – many different types of magic, there are some generally applicable facts about magic as a power which are known or at least suspected. Perhaps the most basic and important for those unfamiliar with magic is this: magic is a force of nature, and as such it follows rules as strict as those of physics. Its rules are not the same rules as those of normal physics, but they are just as regular and fixed.

     The general laws of nature – those known on all worlds, whether that world be Zarathan or Earth or any of the countless worlds beyond the sky – are the “default” of the world. Magic – in its various incarnations – can change or get around these laws of nature in various ways, but any such change is itself something of an effort. Magic exists naturally, but any channeling of it to perform feats outside of normal nature requires effort, and specifically effort of focused will.

     Of course, will alone is not enough, or many people would never die, or produce very interesting effects when trying to avoid death. To be a magician (of most sorts) requires that the person have an inherent connection to that essential power. Everyone has some small connection to it (which is repressed almost to nothing on worlds like Earth) but to be a useful magician requires a strong connection to those forces. And, of course, there must be a reasonable amount of magical energy permeating the world around the would-be mage. This is why – with some very limited exceptions – there is no active functional magic seen on Earth in the era of Digital Knight and Phoenix Rising; the Great Seal cut off the conduit of magic between Zarathan and Earth.

     While magic follows rules, the laws of Magic are not generally known; the only likely exceptions known are the Archmage of the Mountain, Idinus of Scimitar; the mysterious mage called Khoros; and The Wanderer. The vast, vast majority of magic-users do so using practical rules which may sometimes seem like magical theory, but have for the most part the same connection with the true foundations of Magic that Aristotolean physics has with the physics of the natural world as known on modern-day Earth. Still, such rules and a vast assortment of well-known spells, rituals, and so on make magic use a popular goal of many people on Zarathan, and are systematic enough to be taught in a few specialized areas.

It is important to note that the “normal” wizard/magician encountered in Zarathan is a blend of several, or even most, of the categories below. Like all “jack-of-all-trades” types, such a magic-user is not nearly so competent as any of the specialists in their own particular specialty, but isn’t limited as much as the specialists are, either.

Types of Magic

From the point of view of the common person, there may be little visible difference between the types of magic when performing a given feat (lighting a fire, say); the specific techniques and mechanisms are however terribly important to those who have to deal with them.

Following is a list of the most important subtypes of magic as seen in Zarathan (and sometimes mentioned in Phoenix Rising). This is NOT an exhaustive list and it should be remembered that different methods and approaches can be used separately or in combination.

 

SUMMONERS

Mages who are masters of Summoning are adept at calling forth beings or being-like forces and either bribing, convincing, or coercing them into performing various services for them. While the act of Summoning may involve forces superficially similar to those performed by practitioners of other forms of magic, a number of definite differences exist between Summoners and other magicians. Major summonings can take weeks to prepare for and require special rituals to focus both the power and attention of the being(s) to be summoned. Minor summonings can be performed reasonably quickly – a matter of an hour or so of preparation and performance – but even these carry some dangers. A Summoner may have the Summoned being perform a service immediately, or wait until the service is needed; in such a case, the magician will either have to restrain the being (who cannot return to their normal plane or source of origin without having either performed a required service, slain the spellcaster, or been freed by the caster) or convince them to stay; though the being involved cannot, as noted, “go home” without the Caster’s leave, they CAN leave the physical area of the Caster unless carefully constrained and, with sufficient distance, break the bonds of control. A Summoner might call up a number of minor elemental manifestations of Fire and bind them to wait for his signal, at which point they would fly out and burn a target at which he was pointing. They would then be free to leave. From the point of view of an outsider, this would appear to be a casting of a Firefinger spell. Summoning mages often can imitate the abilities of other forms of mages through such means.

 

Drawbacks of Summoning as an approach include the negotiations involved and the dangers inherent in yanking something out of its home to your parlor. Even a nice spirit can get rather peeved over such treatment. Thus Summoners are, most commonly, of three types: 1) Evil and quite willing to coerce, enslave, and use other beings; 2) Reluctant to call upon their powers except in time of great need, in order to avoid annoying their spirit allies; 3) Rich and/or charismatic, and thus able to keep good relations up even when taking advantage of the spirits.

 

Summoners require considerably less in the way of magical potential than other magic-using types, but need dominant personalities — both in will and charisma — to have a decent chance of surviving their careers. Summoners can sometimes make or acquire items which act as a Summoning Focus, and which allow much quicker summoning of the being/force to which that Focus is attuned. Summonings divide well into two categories:

 

     1) Essential Forces. An Essential Force is a small spirit representative of some power or concept — a hearth spirit, a fire elemental, etc. Essential forces tend to have a power limited by what the skill and power of the Summoner can manage; they draw some of their strength and reality from the Summoner. Some “Essential Forces” are actually beings, members of a race of beings like themselves, but not specific individuals;  that is, an Eonwyl might be considered a summonable being representative of the forces of nature, as they are mystical creatures who are the symbols and representations of the world-goddess Eonae; however, the Summoner couldn’t specify a given Eonwyl at the outset.

     2) Individual Beings of Power. These are specific individuals or, rarely, extremely powerful representations of an essential force, which are of great power relative to the Summoner in general. Such beings can only be summoned in one of three ways: Either through a long and arduous process involving the classic elements of summoning, such as ritual circles/pentacles and invocations, through a device or spell specifically crafted for that Being, or through prior arrangement with said Being.  Dark Summoners are often known to use the first method to summon powerful demons and either bind them to service or make a bargain in exchange for such service. Less nasty Summoners get the service of such beings either through being very good at negotiations, very lucky, or very blessed. Some Summoners who worship a specific deity or pantheon and are useful, powerful, devoted servants of that deity or pantheon may gain some Channeling abilities and be given permission to summon some given being or beings in emergency situations.

 

ELEMENTALISTS

The Elemental magician can call up the powers inherent in the primordial elements, drawing on the Elemental concept/power to aid them. Some magical theorists view them as Summoners who summon forth only the power of the great Elementals; others see them as Channelers/Blessed Casters who are essentially priests of the Great Elementals. The Elementalists themselves say that the difference between their power and others is that they call only the POWER and ESSENCE of the Elements and their Representatives, and not the actual elemental beings themselves; and that they are not at the beck and call of the elements, but rather the reverse, so they are not Channelers.

 

Most Elementalists deal with one or two Elements; few attempt more than two. Most commonly the Element chosen is Fire; the least common, Spirit. Indeed, Spirit Elementalists are almost unheard of — a class unto themselves. As might be expected, any Elemental magician is adept at producing effects linked to their Element or Elements, while very weak in other areas. Elementalists need a fairly high Magical potential, but other than that most of their requirements come from the elements they choose. The more elements an Elementalist chooses to work with, the more diverse the effects they can create and the less vulnerable they become to the other Elements. However, this also greatly slows up their progress, since they are then dividing their work between more than one focus. The strongest ground for stating that they are NOT the same as Summoners is that they do not have to spend time preparing for every effect. Some summoning-type rituals may be used on rare occasion, but a Fire Elemental Magician doesn’t need to do a special ritual before calling down a flamestrike on his opponents.

 

SHAPERS:

A Shaper is one who shifts the workings of the very world around them to suit their purpose. Shapers change one creature to another, crystal into wood, up into down, and so on. To do this they must expend both their own power and that inherent in the world around them; their own strength is required because they pay the price — bear the weight — of shifting natural law. The power for the actual CHANGE comes from the magic of the exterior world; the cost the magician pays comes from pitting his or her spirit and will against the Reality of the world. Shapers require not only strong wills, but strong bodies to withstand the stresses of changing the world through their own efforts. A weak Shaper may have great skill, but won’t be able to do very much without risking injury or death. They also all must have very high magical potential, since it is their own abilities which cause the changes.

     A Shaper therefore has a limited number of times that he or she can work magic in any given time period, dependent on the amount of power reqired for their effects and their condition at the time, though they can train to increase this to some extent – essentially by being more efficient about their work. In addition, a Shaper must understand things about the world which impinge on the modifications that they’re going to make; for instance, changing one lifeform to another requires knowing quite a bit about both lifeforms. Thus a Shaper can only produce effects in areas he’s educated in. Because of this, Shapers tend to be very keen on learning about everything and anything.

 

MINDWEAVERS

A mindweaver works with the powers and quirks of the mind, taking concepts and giving them the appearance of reality. At higher levels of power and skill, such a magic wielder can actually give a concept more than mere appearance, but a form of reality. This requires an iron will and, in addition, a vast ability to imagine, in accurate and consistent detail, the concepts they wish to give form to. A good illusion-worker can also benefit from a powerful personality, as this will help him to impress his targets with the importance and power of his spells, thereby making them more effective.

Nowhere is the power of belief more strongly demonstrated than in the field of illusion. This is not illusion in the mundane sense, which deals with mere optical trickery, but in the mystical sense. Illusionists are touching on some of the forces that Shapers deal with, but much of what they do is based rather in convincing the target to do much of the work for them. Thus a mindweaver expends less of his own energies, but must work harder to produce real effects. But a victim who is convinced of the reality of the illusion-worker’s powers can die or be defeated just as readily as though the mindweaver were a master Shaper.

     A Mindweaver doesn’t have the same additional limitation of power that a Shaper does, since much of the work’s being done by the target. However, they do require some knowledge about the subject of their illusion in order to be truly effective. A mindweaver’s spells are limited also by the intellectual capability of the creator of the illusion; to maintain more than one illusion, or to produce truly complex ones, draws upon mental resources which only the most brilliant and focused individuals possess.

 

CHANNELERS

As their name implies, Channelers funnel powers from some other source or being through themselves to produce their effects. A Channeler has somewhat less control over their powers than the other magical types, because their magical source always has a mind of its own. A Channeler on good terms with his Source can rely on the effects, and is in fact at little or no risk of miscasting under almost any circumstances. An out-of-favor Channeler, however, may find it almost impossible to get even the simplest effects to manifest, at least until they’ve managed to atone for whatever it was that got them in trouble.

A Channeler’s power is circumscribed by the abilities and preferences of the Source; a Channeler who happens to be a priest for a God of Fire will be exceedingly unlikely to either be able to cast Ice Storms or even WANT to.

On the positive side, Channelers do not require any actual magical power of their own; the work is all done by their Source. The Channeler’s main focus is to fulfill the requirements of their Source. Most Channelers are, of course, priests or other servants of gods, and the gods usually have clear rules of behavior and specific missions for their priests to follow. A Channeler also benefits from being properly trained and in good mental and physical condition, especially if they are likely to try to channel powerful effects; it is something of a strain to act as a living conductor for the power of the Gods.

 

ALCHEMISTS

Alchemy is the study of the interaction of magic and matter. Alchemists, like Summoners, are magicians of studied progress rather than of quick action; an Alchemist can never produce a noticeable effect without preparation first. However, they can do things that other mages either cannot do, or have to expend considerably more effort in doing. Alchemists make magical substances – and items — which can be used by them or by others, thereby making it possible to give a non-magician a magical edge.

This they do by first extracting the five elemental facets of magical power and binding them to an earthy base, in effect creating a solid essence of magic, called “Lurlonioron” (“Creator’s Stone/metal”) in the Ancient Sauran tongue, and “alchemist’s base” in common parlance. This “alchemist’s base” is then used as a source of mystical power that the alchemist focuses on the materials with which he works, bringing out their magical natures and allowing them to fully manifest, or transferring those magical tendencies to some other item or material as needed.

Since this is all done using the Alchemist him or herself as a channel for the power and as a director of the power as well, Alchemists who wish to survive and prosper in their profession tend to be exceptional individuals. Like Shapers they must have a high magical potential, and also like Shapers they need to understand a great deal about the concepts, symbology, and operations that must be used in their work, and have foresight, caution, and the wide worldview needed to understand the interactions of many disparate powers. As the channel for great energies, they need both a strong body and focused, steady mind, and since much of their work depends on delicate operations, they cannot be clumsy, but rather must have very accurate hand-eye coordination.

 

SPIRIT MAGICIANS

A Spirit Mage is, as noted earlier, technically one of the Elementalist group, but so rare and powerful a group are they that they deserve a separate entry. Spirit Mages have dared to tamper with the force which may actually be, rather than merely a fifth element, the primary element from which all others spring. They work at the boundary of Magic and the Mind and require extremely high magical potential just to begin work in this area, as well as careful training in mental disciplines to control their mental states. Hand-in-hand with this goes an extremely high will, for the shaping of the forces of the spirit is not something done easily by anyone. A strong body is also essential, for a Spirit Mage must endure some of the greatest physical strains on their bodies of any of the magicians.

Spirit Mages divide very sharply into two classes: those who manipulate, but do not abuse, spirit powers and use them for what would be considered “good” ends, and those who use their knowledge of the spirit energies for evil. The latter are better known as Necromancers — mages of death.

Often a Necromancer will end up being a Channeler as well, because they can make great use of the energies of a powerful being who will permit it. Such a patron usually demands a great price, however… and it is usually the case that such a Necromancer eventually finds that he has become a pure Channeler, his skill and ability to actually manipulate the forces of life and death himself burned out and destroyed by his Patron. This is not always the case, however, and those Necromancers who do manage to keep their own souls while destroying or using others’ are some of the most terrifyingly powerful beings in existence.

Spirit Magic is in some ways either closer to the powers of the Mind or to the powers of the Gods, in that it is far better at penetrating normal mystical defenses than any other form of magic. Spirit Mages of a given level of skill are nearly always superior to any other form of magician overall. The dangers inherent in their profession — of backlash from spiritual and mental forces, of attack by those who hunger for such energies, or by other Spirit Mages of the opposite stripe — and the extreme requirements of becoming a spirit mage keep their numbers extremely low.

Spirit Magic is also closely related to the “Ki” or “Chi” power used by certain esoteric sects of martial artists; there is some debate, in fact, as to whether such power is actually Spirit Magic merely being used in a native, non-spellcasting fashion. Certainly both types of power-wielders can produce remarkably similiar effects in some ways.

 

SYMBOLISTS

Symbolists are magicians who utilize the power of imagery, symbols, and so on to call forth the powers of the symbol. They differ from Summoners in that Summoners basically see a fire as a fire, a unicorn as a unicorn, and so on. A Symbolist might see a fire as a symbol of life, thereby immersing someone in fire in order to heal them! This is a simplistic example, but the idea is clear. The Symbolists use the power of conceptualized symbols, often those of great antiquity and perhaps even archetypal significance, as the core of their powers.

They differ from Mindweavers in that while both use images, for a Mindweaver the image is the final result;  for a Symbolist, the image is merely a trigger or a focus. There are a number of different kinds of Symbolists — not surprising, since symbolizing concepts and feelings is one of the most varied activities of all intelligent races. The most common are Runemasters, Sympaths, Astrologers, Musicmages, and Cartomancers.

Runemasters use abstract written or carven symbols to work their magic — runes, in other words. These runes can be very personal, or very well known; most often they are symbols or runes from ancient or at least well-known civilizations.

Sympaths are practitioners of sympathetic magic — where one gets a given effect by performing some act that can be seen to be similar to the desired effect. The classic voodoo doll is one well-known example; another is that of sprinkling water from above in an attempt to call a rainstorm.

Astrologers utilize the symbols inherent in the constellations above their world; in our own world, for instance, an astrologer might call upon the constellation Orion, the Hunter, for a spell intended to aid one in a hunt or search, and upon Hercules for strength, and so on.

Musicmages, as their name implies, use song and music and the emotions and images these can evoke to produce their effects.

Cartomancers use cards or other image-covered materials– usually a form of tarot cards — for their magic. There are multiple tarot-type card traditions known on Zarathan; the most well known is called the Mirror Tarot, a variant of which is used by the priests of Terian in their readings (as shown in Phoenix Rising)

Symbolists are quite powerful and, in the minds of some, are a form of Channeler, drawing upon the massive power of the collective unconscious and focusing it through the matrix of the imagery they use. They must have considerable knowledge and skill with respect to their symbolic modality in order to produce any useful effects. A Musicmage, for instance, must have a good deal of training in music before they can even begin to use their magic! Many other forms of magic use Symbolism to one extent or another, and the fact that few forms of magic, if any, are completely free from Symbolic influences is indicative to some theorists that the Mind truly is the key to Reality.

     Symbolic magic relies on drawing, carving, etc., the symbol or symbols associated with the spell onto a surface, paper,making a doll, etc., as appropriate to the spell. In general, some part of the work can be done beforehand, but then the paper/etc. must be applied properly and the magic activated; a familiar version of this is seen in a number of anime/wuxia flicks when the priest whips out a scroll, recites or swiftly sketches symbols on the paper, and smacks it onto the target (a demon’s head, a tree, a wall, etc.).

     Casting such spells in active situations such as combat requires not only considerable knowledge and training, but concentration. Lots of concentration.

     On the positive side, Symbolists can often create new or combined effects by carefully unifying various symbols into a whole.

 

Phoenix Rising: References, Notes, and In-Jokes

 

Prologue:

  • “sirza”: A word derived from Ancient Sauran, which is actually a combination of the names of two of the Sixteen, S’her of the Rubies and Ruza of the Sapphires, who were friends of legendary closeness, willing to dare anything to protect each other.
  • “door wards are down”: Most residences of any significance will have magical protections of some degree; such wards can do many things ranging from signaling an alarm to killing the assailants directly.

 

Chapter 1.

  • The Balanced Sword: As described later in the book, the Balanced Sword of Myrionar is similar to a common symbol of justice here on Earth; however, instead of the sword being point-down and the balance-pans suspended from the crosspiece of the hilt, the sword is point up and the pans balance on a beam set atop the sword point.
  • “from the V—”: It is obvious that Lady Victoria Vantage had an adventurous past, including an old nickname she is embarrassed by. There are multiple guesses as to what it really is, including the Vantage Vixen or the Vantage Viper, but Kyri has never learned the truth.
  • “pricklepine fish”: A reference to one of my childrens’ favorite books when they were little, Is This a House for Hermit Crab?, in which Hermit Crab’s nemesis is the fictional, barracuda-like pricklepine fish.
  • “I suppose she could break a man… if he was lucky.”: A reference to an old Benny Hill skit, though the joke in its general form is very very old indeed.
  • “Child of Odin”: Unlike the original Norse Myth, the Dwarves of Zarathan are followers of (a version of) the Norse Pantheon, and their creation myth holds that they were literally forged from the stuff of the Earth by Odin himself, wielding the Hammer of Thor and using the Fire of Knowledge.

 

Chapter 3.

  • Khoros: The appearance of Khoros is strongly influenced by the appearance of certain sects of Japanese holy men, and in particular by the character Kaos from Yoroiden Samurai Troopers. The character Khoros existed before I saw YST, but his appearance was not set until afterwards. In personality and “voice” he is strongly influenced by Nero Wolfe as well as less… indolent characters.
  • “Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit”: The typical Western system of elements used just Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, but Spirit encompasses the mystery of life and the numinous. The other elements, of course, represent more than their simple elements.
  • “The Length of Space”: This is a common way of referring to the god Terian, also commonly called “Infinity”.

 

Chapter 5.

  • “…slight upturn of the almost immobile lips”: Toads normally don’t have lips as we know them. The Intelligent Toads have some subtle anatomic differences compared to real toads; this includes a larger brain, more expressive faces, a more developed vocal system, opposable thumbs, and other minor details.

 

Chapter 6.

  • “I feel like a Newleg, stuck between the Swimmer and the Leaper”: This refers to the three stages of development of the Toads; a Swimmer is a tadpole, a Leaper is a fully adult Toad, and a Newleg is a tadpole that’s finally grown its legs – or alternatively is a Toad that hasn’t quite lost its tail yet. A Newleg is caught between two worlds, not really ready for either.
  • “Do you want fools for servants, or think me a fool for sacrifice alone?”: From this and the other discussion it is obvious that summoning a demon is, as in many other works, a very unsafe thing to do, and calling one through without some sort of safeguard is tantamount to suicide.

 

 

Chapter 7.

  • “derntera”: This Sauran expression applies to humans, Dwarves, Artan, and most other species; metaphorically it means “newcomers”, though literally it’s a contraction of “dern a T’Teranahm”, or “those who follow after the Great Dragons”.

 

Chapter 8.

  • “The King of All Hells”: by this we see implied that there are many “hells” – presumably multiple realms of the afterlife or spiritual existence on both sides, in fact. Kerlamion, then, is the evil that those who run those other hell-realms answer to.
  • “The Golden-Eyed God”: A reference to “Blackwart the Great”, god of the Intelligent Toads. Like his people, Blackwart is often mocked or dismissed for his appearance or even his name. Most Toads have golden eyes slightly speckled with black, and thus one of the ways of referring to the god is as “the Golden-Eyed”.
  • ” …he is not subject to the little arrangement you managed to convince most of the other Powers to agree to…”: From this we realize that Blackwart, unlike most other deities, is not affected by the bargain that Khoros described.
  • “But, he reminded himself, my patron is quite different from the others.”: This is something that should be plain even from this first viewing. Unlike many agents of evil or those seeking conquest and domination, the “patron” seems fair-minded, reasonable, and honorable, meaning that he can be trusted by his servants… and in general meaning he gets better loyalty. As a writer, I really don’t like characters that carry the “idiot ball” on either side.

 

Chapter 9.

  • “Harlock’s Spire”: Reference to Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto.
  • “Mount Scimitar”: The mountain, and the name of the being that sits atop it, was actually an invention of my brother’s, something like 35 years ago.
  • “eight inches thick of wood bound with enchanted steel”: such doors would be many hundreds of pounds, yet Kyri can lift them up and turn them over; this is the first clear indication of what people really mean when they say “the Vantage strength”.

 

Chapter 11.

  • “I need Wanderer’s luck now”: The legendary mage/sage/adventurer called the Wanderer is mentioned several times in Phoenix Rising. He has many attributes ascribed to him in various tales, but one of the most prominent is luck.
  •  ”… a monstrous thing, part mazakh, part hideous insectoid…”: Those paying attention to descriptions will recognize that this is almost certainly a statue of Voorith.
  • “… hope it’s not Manifesting now…”: In many temples, the deity will be able to project a part of themselves into the representation of the deity in the temple; this is called a Manifestation, and naturally someone opposed to their worshippers suddenly climbing onto their statue would trigger a … very bad reaction in such a situation.
  • “Fear me”: Poplock Duckweed was originally a player character of mine, later a popular NPC. In one particular game, he ended up terrifying several adversaries through luck and excellent acting, and the bad guys had no idea what they were facing. His tag line came to be “Fear me”.

 

Chapter 12.

  • “a black drink… brewed from locusts and flame-ants…”: This is a reference to one of many strange libations described in Dave Hargrave’s Arduin Grimoire series; the inspiring drink was “Bang-Beetle Wine”.

 

Chapter 14.

  • “… something like caterpillars grown monstrously huge, but with a humanoid torso, massive arms gripping clubs or maces…”: in general outline and concept these are a nod to Fallout 3, and the “centaurs” that accompany the Super-Mutants in the Wasteland.
  • “Seeker Reed”: A reference to my old friend Steve Reed.

 

Chapter 15.

  • “Kochiss the butcher and his wife Minuzi”: A sideways reference to Izumi and Sig Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist.
  • “Guild Adventurer”: The term “Adventurer” is used with a capital in these cases because it represents a very specific profession. As becomes clear later in the novel, unlike Earth most of Zarathan is not tamed, but filled with shifting dangers, hiding treasures – and perils – of ancient days, or new monsters, conspiracies, and so on. The “Adventurer” is something of a combination of a noble soldier of fortune, a treasure hunter, and pest control – where pests can range from ordinary predators to rogue dragons. The Guild allows for an enforcement of standards and a contact and support network between the various Adventurers who are, in a very real sense, one of the strongest elements that permit civilization on Zarathan to mostly continue unmolested. Becoming a Guild Adventurer is simultaneously fairly easy and extremely difficult and demanding – passing the examinations/testings isn’t hard if you have both the skill and the essential personality traits for it (which includes basic goodwill towards others – there are powerful truthtellings involved to ensure this), but gaining that skill is not easy. While many Adventurers, like Kyri and Tobimar and Poplock, end up becoming such due to things they’re already involved in, there are actually formal training groups which take in young people who believe this is a career they wish to pursue.
  • “Ingram Camp-Bel of Aegeia”: Ingram was a PC I played for a while in a PBEM game by John Nielsen; his background is a fusion of elements from two PCs from one of my own games (hi Lesley, Chad!). His name is a self-reference to Ingram Remington Locke (The Jammer) from Digital Knight/Paradigms Lost.
  • “… and together the hangings had been about eight or nine hundred pounds…”: this is the second major indication of the “Vantage strength” we get, and the first really quantitative estimate. Kyri carries roughly four hundred and seventy pounds (450 from the hangings, another 20 from the wooden crate) in a large crate, in her arms, from the interior of the Vantage mansion, down a fairly long pathway, and puts the crate into a coach. This is an incredible feat of strength and endurance, one that even the strongest and best trained men of our world might not be able to match.

 

Chapter 17.

  • Kyri’s hair: Kyri is now the second of two heroines, in two successive solo novels, who has blue hair. This was not planned; I in fact hadn’t expected to publish Phoenix Rising any time soon (prior pitches for the novel hadn’t gone anywhere) and had forgotten this point when I wrote Grand Central Arena and gave Ariane Austin blue hair. Note however that most of Kyri’s is very obviously blue – deep-sky blue – while Ariane’s is an extremely dark blue that can look black in some lighting. The other colors, gold and silver, complete the colors that are used to represent Myrionar.
  • “Or I’m not being what Myrionar says I must be.”: Just as the Gods themselves are bound by very particular strictures in behavior, one who represents a god must follow those strictures, and may have others placed on them. In this case, Kyri has been asked to be the sole living representative of Myrionar and is expected to serve as a shining example of the best that Myrionar can offer. While vengeance is an attractive motivation for some, it is the most destructive aspect of Justice and is thus to be kept for the ultimate extremity.
  • “Spiritsmith”: In the original draft this was “Angelsmith”; I prefer the first in some ways, but this name has the dual implication of a Smith who uses spiritual powers, and a smith who forges spirits the way he might forge iron – both of which are appropriate.

 

 

Chapter 19:

  • “… tried to use an exhaled cough for the hGHEK sound”: Ancient Sauran has several sounds that really aren’t meant for human pronunciation, the two most prominent being hGHEK  and hGRRK, both of which are sort of inhaled snorts or growls, with the superscripted “h” representing the sound of inhaled air.While this can sort of be imitated by exhaled sounds, proper pronunciation requires the inhaled version.
  • “God with the silly name”: Some deities’ names will sound impressive, others – like “Blackwart the Great” may sound ludicrous. But in a world where the gods wield real and active power, and there are a thousand different gods active, you’re very unwise to laugh at any of them, no matter how silly you think the name is.
  • “… always referred to the same way throughout”: This is referring to Terian, who is also called Infinity or the Infinite. In the verses referred to, he is called “The Length of Space”, which of course is “infinity”.
  • “carved crystal callstone”: Yes, this is basically a magical, and much longer-ranged, version of those wireless pager devices used in many restaurants. Zarathan may look on the surface like a semi-medieval society but in actuality it’s very much as advanced as ours.
  • “Ymir’s Blood” /”Fire Ruby”: in this section we see the existence of inherently magical gemstones; these are discussed in more detail later in the book.
  • “carven entire from a single one of the Dragon King’s scales”: Given that the corridor is close to three hundred feet wide and four hundred tall, even if one assumes that the Dragon King has scales of unusually large proportions for his body size, that body size must still be incomprehensibly vast. Yes, the hallway is also ludicrously large, but it was built by Dragons for Dragons and their kin; this allows the Dragons to have at least something of their normal stature if and when they choose to visit the King.
  • “The Armed Bow”: Mentioned before, this is an unusual ritual from our own culture’s point of view. When presented to the ruler, you must be armed in his presence, your weapons clearly visible, and then perform a bow which includes a full 360-degree pivot. To the Saurans, a guest being unarmed implies that the ruler is so fearful and weak that he does not trust his defenses even within his own stronghold. The pivot on both sides demonstrates good will; it says “I may be armed, but I present my back to you.”

 

Chapter 20.

  • “… virtues of the Justiciar armor…”: The general climate of Zarathan (or, at least, the part of it in which most of the action of the book takes place; there are pretty much all environments to be found if you go across the whole world) is tropical. Under ordinary circumstances that would make wearing heavy armor near-suicidal. However, magical armor (and clothing) can basically perform both heating and cooling functions on Zarathan, especially in the more powerful armors. Given the climate, this is pretty much a default enchantment on any heavy armor.

 

 

Chapter 21.

  • The Great Roads: Constructed originally in the era of the great civilization of the Ancient Saurans – the same era as Atlantaea – the Great Roads, like Zarathanton’s major buildings, are virtually unbreakable stonelike material, reinforced regularly after every Chaoswar or major conflict. They are thus one of the few constants in the world throughout all its history.

 

Chapter 22.

     This chapter contains a number of deliberate references/homages to specific works of fantasy.

  • Shadestriding: an obvious reference, especially with the specific description of how it works, to Shadow-walking or hellriding, from Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber
  • Floating black creatures in the night: the Dark, from Barbara Hambly’s Darwath trilogy.
  • Spiders made of glass: a reference to Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg
  • Eyeless black creatures in wedges: Ur-viles, from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
  • Tentacled monstrosity in a swamp: Reference to both the Lurker at the Threshold from Lord of the Rings, and the tentacled creature encountered in a swamp in The Sword of Shannara

 

Chapter 23.

  • “…putting their dustcloaks back on”: The point here is that the reason both individuals would be doing that action upon leaving the Throneroom was because they had taken them off; the only obvious reason for both of them to do that in the Throneroom would be to expose their weapons clearly for the ritual Armed Bow to the King. Thus, a new King had been chosen, and as that had not been announced, there was only one obvious candidate to Poplock. Toron’s reaction confirmed it.

 

Chapter 24.

  • The Triad and the Three Beards: In-jokes from my world; The Triad are gods based (in appearance and some other elements) on the group “Rush” as seen on the reverse of their album “2112″. The Three Beards are hedonistic gods of enjoyment, romance, and, oddly, justice; also oddly, one of the three is depicted as clean-shaven. This is of course a reference to “ZZTop”, who happen to feature two long-bearded members and a third member whose name is, in fact, Beard.
  • “Dying in the temples of the gods”: It is important to recognize that in the world of Zarathan the gods, and their servants, are constant and active forces. This is nowhere more evident than in the ability of holy beings to drive out afflictions and mend wounds. To have people dying in the very temples is something most people on that world would think impossible; it requires such a drain on the resources of the temples that even a war would seem unlikely to be able to manage it.
  • “Fewer nobility subscriptions”: Many forms of nobility and privilege in the State of the Dragon King are purchased, by money that is specifically put towards supporting the state and its operations. This is one of the major sources of income for the country, which does not have nor permit taxes as we understand them. If enough of the nobility decide to give up their privileges and instead keep as much of their money as possible, the government would be severely reduced in resources and capabilities.

 

Chapter 25.

  • “Sketched a complex symbol in the air”: most, if not all, people in guard or military capacity know methods to check the authenticity of identification. Adventurer’s Guild patches are one of the most common such ID methods and important to verify. It’s hard to fake such a patch as there are multiple verification methods and a faker would have to account for all of them – and few if any of such methods are easy to fake.

 

Chapter 27.

  • “in the holding cells for six weeks”: One of the basic principles on which the State of the Dragon King operates is similar to our own, in that it is assumed those who are arrested for any reason will be interviewed, tried, and set free or convicted within a reasonable period. From their point of view, “reasonable period” is to be measured in days, not weeks. Even though such jails are kept reasonably comfortable, such imprisonment beyond the reasonable span is considered a nigh-unforgiveable breach of protocol.

 

Chapter 28.

  • “Crystal records”: As mentioned elsewhere, those looking at people wielding swords and living in castles and making the assumption that they’re primitive would be terribly mistaken on Zarathan. In this case they have the equivalent of DVR monitoring cameras set in the cell to observe prisoners.
  • “… sounds like it makes sense…”: In modern terms (not ones I knew when I first wrote this) what Toshi’s done makes the imprisoned Five sound like they’re speaking Simlish. It has the cadence, rhythm, and inflections we expect in speech, but we can’t extract the actual meaning from the speech.
  • “after a hundred and fifty years…”: Most Toads do not live as long as human beings do; however, magicians of many types can lengthen their lifespans, something Willowwind has clearly done.

 

 

Chapter 29.

  • “Chromaias’ Caltrop”: a four-pointed object with gems on each point and at the center where all the shafts of the points meet; the center is transparent diamond, the points being red, blue, green, and amber. It has the same shape as a jack or caltrop, such that if it is dropped one point is always straight up and the other three form a stable base.
  • “wrappings and boxes”: from this it’s fairly evident that on Zarathan there’s an equivalent of delivery services for fast food.
  • “the Fall”: The collapse of the original Ancient Sauran civilization was the only act of internal strife that the Saurans ever had, and has notes of the hubris and tragic misunderstandings often seen in similar legends and stories told from ancient days through now. It happened at the same time as the Fall of Atlantaea and it is obvious that there was a connection between the two events.
  • “… appeared from thin air”: Obviously Xavier dropped his invisibility in response to Toron’s wish to be able to speak to one of the Five; unfortunately Tobimar didn’t know that and reacted on a hair-trigger.

 

Chapter 30.

  • “the twin-blades”: The particular style of combat that Xavier and Tobimar share is a signature style of Atlantaea, and there is great significance in knowing that style at all.
  • “… one that has recently had other reasons to be drawn to my attention”: Toron is obviously speaking of Kyri and her mission. He does not directly tell them of what is going on there for two reasons. The most obvious is that if Khoros had intended them to know, all that need have happened is the two groups – or three, in fact (the Five, Kyri and her aunt, and Tobimar and Poplock) meet and talk with each other at the gates of the Palace. They were in the right place, yet they did not intersect. This tells Toron that Khoros intended they not meet, for only the slightest nudge would have been needed to ensure that meeting. The other and actually controlling reason is that the knowledge of Kyri’s mission is a secret entrusted to him that he is not free to reveal, even if he might like to.

 

Chapter 31.

  • Kyri’s climb up the mountain is one of the oldest parts of this book; pieces of it remain virtually unchanged since I wrote the first draft of this book in 1991-1992.
  • The Spiritsmith: Originally called the Angelsmith, and basically that’s something close to part of his name; his long name means something like “He Whose Mastery of the Smithy is in service to/is like unto the gods/angels/great spirits”.

 

Chapter 32.

  • “… she stood in a different place, facing Rion, on a day when both of them were praised…”: This refers to a chapter that was excised from the original draft of the novel, in which she and Rion were sparring and Rion used basically the same trick against her.
  • ” Obviously the Spiritsmith was not fighting her to his full capabilities…”: It’s important to emphasize this. The Spiritsmith is huge, fast, immensely strong, and has been around for a period long enough to start being measurable in geologic time. He’s simply out of Kyri’s – and most other beings’ – league. This is a test, not a serious fight to the death, or else Kyri would have been dead in the first clash.

 

Chapter 33.

  • Xavier and Gods: Pity the poor Earth boy. This isn’t exactly what someone raised in the tiny suburb of Morgantown, NY was prepared for, and Xavier left his hometown before the weird really tried to close in.
  • The LTP: Obviously a parallel to our world’s portable gaming consoles like the Nintendo DS, Playstation Portable, etc. I was informed, during beta-reading, that “LTP” is a sardonic acronym used in some gaming forums that means “Learn To Play”; I decided that the reference could stay in, and in fact, that was probably part of the slogan that Lumiere Industries used to promote the LumiTainment Portable’s release.
  • Chrono Victory: In Xavier’s world, they got real sequels to Chrono Trigger. (yes, that’s a snark on my part. As I’ve posted elsewhere, Chrono Cross was a decent game on its own, but not a very good sequel at all)
  • Zeus’ Rains: One of the magical gems common in Skysand; obviously electrical in nature.
  • Hawkspinner: The Hawkspinner is a sort of insectoid not-quite-spider creature that makes sticky netlike traps which have been known to catch hawks.
  • Poplock’s recharger: One of the important points of this sequence is showing both the intersection of magic and technology, and Poplock’s very methodical, logical, and practical approach to solving even complex problems.

 

Chapter 34.

  • Xavier’s powers and magic: As implied by the mirrored fighting in Xavier and Tobimar’s combat, both Tobimar and Xavier have been taught in the same style of combat. Readers of my first book, Digital Knight, might have guessed that it’s the same style of combat that Raiakafan, Verne Domingo’s adopted son, uses: Tor. This would be a correct guess. The abilities of Tor are not, strictly speaking, magical. While the basic fighting style is the same for both Tobimar and Xavier, they have each been taught different parts of the “more advanced” elements of the art, which is why each of them has tricks the other doesn’t know how to do.
  • “Chains of the Mind”: This is a legend I wrote up of the deep past of Zarathan, one that took place during the Fall of the Saurans (and of course the Fall of Atlantaea). Unfortunately it appears the original of the legend is lost – I think it was destroyed in one of two basement floods. One day I’ll have to rewrite it. It deals with the first real conflict between the demons, including Kerlamion, and the Great Dragons, and how one of the Dragons gets caught in the middle.
  • “Scythefeet”: A close relative of the various raptorial dinosaurs, slightly smaller than Utahraptor but with much sharper claws.
  • “The one with his eyes”: While there is a great significance to the “gray eyes” which Xavier and Kyri have in common, for these demons it appears that someone with a particular and peculiar shade of blue eyes is a great enemy, as they disregard Xavier in this scene and focus on Tobimar.

 

Chapter 35.

  • “… my will’s holding off some…”: Magic is a tremendously powerful and flexible force, but it is in great part born of the will and power of the soul. Thus a trained person with strong will can often manage to blunt or even refuse the effects of many types of spells. This won’t work on indirect effects (a magical spell that triggers a mundane avalanche) but is quite effective on direct magical assaults.
  • “Ancient magical blades, I choose you!”: Obviously a reference to Pokemon, this is Xavier’s response to Lady Misuuma’s attempt to use a red summoning crystal to call forth some kind of opponent.

 

Chapter 36.

  • “…I have spoken long with the Wanderer on the ways of metal and lightning-power in a world where magic is seen not at all…”: Here is a strong indication that the Wanderer comes from Earth, or a world very much like it.
  • Thyrium: As mentioned, a mystical variant of copper. In earthly terms, thyrium is a room-temperature superconductor (actually, up to about 400 degrees F) and it is also a superconductor of most other powers as well.
  • “… some of those feats can, in fact, be achieved by a warrior sufficiently trained that she can pit her own will against powers sent against her.”: Here we see one of the reasons that warriors wielding apparently ordinary weapons are still of any note in a world where mighty magicians and gods exist; they can learn how to resist magic and similar powers through sheer force of will in combat.

 

Chapter 37.

  • “At last, I know its name!”: While not quite the mystical force that it might be in other fictional realms, knowing the actual name of someone at the least gives you a good chance of finding out who and what they really are. And there is certainly an element of mystical force to it; knowing someone’s real name will give you more leverage to use in a spell targeting them. Kerlamion undoubtedly revealed Viedraverion’s name as a subtle retaliation for Viedraverion’s earlier challenging behavior over what had happened in Aegeia.
  • “If you allowed us to approach you”: One of the most interesting characteristics of this Patron of Thornfalcon’s (and the being behind the false Saints) is that he apparently will NOT allow any contact with it if it is encountered outside of the sanctuary. This does tell us that the being IS seen outside, fairly often, but for some reason will allow no contact, even in important circumstances.

 

 

Chapter 38.

  • “…sent cold, clinging fog in all directions…”: In this battle we get our first taste of what a combat between Justiciars is like. Each Justiciar – and false Justiciar – wields powers that parallel something about their designated name.

 

 

 

Chapter 39.

  • “Looking for the entrance to Thologondoreave”: The Children of Odin guard the location of their greatest city and fortress very carefully. Seeking one of the entrances is a great challenge, and not all that safe; not only are the common dangers of exploring the mountains present, but also there are commonly monsters of various types wandering the area. The Children of Odin only clear them out very near the entrances. Caravans sent to Thologondoreave are led in with spells that mislead and confuse memory, so that even people who commonly trade with the Children of Odin can’t generally say where their home lies.
  • “Burn it back every couple of years”: Given the multiplicity of dangerous things inhabiting the jungles of Zarathan, a prudent precaution in ANY inhabited area is clearing the jungle back by the farthest practical margin. Fire is often used for this purpose. It is probably slightly easier to keep this particular area (the guardpost) clear, as it sits on an area that used to be part of one of the Great Roads.
  • “… being like carrion birds”: True Adventurers are expected to assist where they’re needed – but as they also tend to benefit from the assistance, there are more than a few people who look suspiciously at Adventurers and wonder if they are glad to see bad things happening.
  • Flame ants: As their name implies, flame ants are giant ants with an association with fire; they can project flame as a sting, and heat their bodies. They are generally found near hot springs, volcanic vents, and such, but are distributed across Zarathan in lesser numbers. While they’re quite similar to the creatures seen in, for example, Fallout 3, they were invented long before that particular game – or even the first game in the series – was even thought of.
  • Pourstone: This is the typical equivalent of poured concrete on Zarathan; similar but with some mystical enhancement and protection. It isn’t nearly as good as the whatever-it-was that made up the Great Roads, but it’s very good even compared to our own technology.
  • “One Scale”: The money of the State of the Dragon King is fairly standard across the continent; even in the Empire of the Mountain, the same denominations are generally seen. The standard unit is a “Scale”, a moderate-sized silver coin stamped with a stylized likeness of a dragon on one side and Ternahm Chendoron on the other; the name, obviously, comes from the armoring scales on a dragon’s hide.
  • “…forty thousand years old?”: In actuality, Konstantin Khoros is far older than this, but our heroes here have no way of knowing that. Just what they do know is scary enough.
  • The Great Game: As Poplock and Tobimar deduce, while the gods are of course vastly more powerful than they, the point of their involvement is that they are active components, not inactive pieces, and can make choices that make or break the strategies higher up. Imagine, for instance, playing multiple games of chess… but ones in which sometimes your pieces decided to move on their own. Even the finest strategy could be ruined by finding a single pawn just one square over from where you’d expected it to be.

 

Chapter 40.

  • “False Justiciar”: It’s worthwhile to emphasize just how shocking the concept is – and by the reverse emphasize just how hard it would be, on Zarathan, for someone to conceive of the real state of events. The Justiciars are supposedly chosen by Myrionar or at least Its agents and provided with power by Myrionar. Pretending to be a Justiciar is practically DARING the god to stop you. If the god doesn’t, or can’t, this says something absolutely terrifying about how powerful, subtle, or both the opposing force must be, and that there may be other imperatives – associated with the god’s domain, which in Myrionar’s case is Justice and Vengeance – at work that prevent the god from even explaining what’s going on.
  • “…the local Symbolist is getting something from this disaster”: Symbolists are well-suited to duplicating other things connected to symbols, most notably writings. If you want the equivalent of your local copy center, you look up a symbolist.
  • Sithigorn: Mentioned a few times earlier, sithigorns are very large, strong riding birds of an omnivorous nature, something like a cross between an ostrich and one of the “terror birds” that dominated in parts of the Americas millions of years ago. There are both wild and domesticated sithigorns; the wild ones tend to be somewhat smaller but much more aggressive.

 

Chapter 41.

  • “Claws of the Shrike”: As mentioned, each Raiment and its weapons come with custom capabilities. In this case, Shrike’s weapon strikes as though it were the three main talons of his namesake – which makes it MUCH harder to block his strikes.
  • “… heal her in a flow of star-touched light”: Another important point about dealing with Kyri, or – presumably – false Justiciars or similar beings. Kyri took some heavy blows, cracked ribs, from fighting Shrike; not long before she was injured fighting Mist Owl. But the power of her god changes the entire game. If she has enough time to call upon Myrionar, she could in theory be on death’s door one moment and in top shape the next. Once an enemy of this type is out of your sight – potentially even when they’ve managed to get far enough out of sword-reach for a short breather – they may be back in top form immediately. No days, weeks, or months of recovery time.

 

Chapter 42.

  • “Condor”: The interesting thing about this sequence is how Poplock and Tobimar come very close, in some ways, to figuring out what’s going on. If they didn’t have the basic assumption of the temple and the gods being infallably correct in this area, they might even have figured out the major points of the whole problem. At the same time, they go rather spectacularly wrong in some ways, but understandably so.

 

Chapter 43.

  • Thornfalcon: While there were, possibly, enough clues earlier, this is the point at which we finally know for sure that the mysterious bad guy we’ve been watching all along has been Thornfalcon. This sequence also shows us how carefully he plays the game; his performance is essentially letter-perfect until he knows his alchemical paralysis is working on Kyri. He takes no risks in allowing her a chance to recognize his true nature until it’s too late for her.

 

Chapter 44.

  • Thornfalcon’s nature: From this and other sequences it is clear that Thornfalcon is both what we would refer to as a serial killer and a sociopath. He seeks only his own entertainment and aggrandizement, but is extremely high-functioning – and supernaturally empowered. On the other hand, he is also an artiste and appreciates things being done a certain way. There were multiple influences from different books that went into designing Thornfalcon this way, ranging from the bard Fflewddur Fflam in the Prydain Chronicles (for his somewhat mournful and deceptively harmless appearance) to Master Eremis from Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need dualogy (for his … particular tastes).

 

 

Chapter 45.

  • “…  or more truthfully, making the universe attuned and more one with us.” This is something of an inversion of many martial arts/philosophies which imply that the practitioner is in the position of something tiny within a great universe which they must become in tune with; instead, the philosophy and action of Tor, the martial art Khoros has taught to Tobimar (and that Xavier was taught by his master) is based on the idea that a living intelligent spirit is potentially a master of the reality it inhabits, and should make reality conform to said being’s perceptions and needs.
  • “… something sinister in the man’s gaze…”: Now that as readers we know Thornfalcon’s real nature, and the breadth of corruption in the Justiciars, we can guess that it is likely that Thornfalcon in particular has allies or at least people willing to look the other way and provide certain support for his less-savory behaviors. Tobimar, of course, hasn’t any good reason to suspect that, yet.
  • “… have you stripped and hounded.”: The Adventurer’s Guild is pretty relaxed about many things, but a few things will get you in REAL trouble. Pretending to be a guild member when you’re not is one. Using your Guild membership to harrass others, play jokes, or otherwise abuse the trust it inspires is another. The Guild WORKS only because people know they can depend on a Guild Adventurer to do their job honestly and well, no matter their particular style or demeanor, so anything that threatens this rep must be dealt with decisively. Depending on the severity of the offense the guild may do a number of things. “Stripped and hounded” means that they will find you, remove your Guild patch and negate the magic that certifies it, strip you naked (or nearly so) and then chase or hound you through the streets, periodically smacking you with something that will be quite painful. This is an intermediate-level punishment; really betraying the Guild’s trust is a fatal mistake.
  • Panel and post wards: The best type of wards (magical shields that exclude specific things, ranging from vermin to demons, depending) are full perimeter wards; these are enchanted enclosures which are something like the typical “magic circle” seen in many magic rituals in fiction (and real life), but are permanent, and the most expensive and complex actually enclose a spherical (or other shape – it can be customized) volume without seam or flaw; such wards can be made to have effective “doors” in them that can be opened and closed, in case you have reason to let SOME examples of the excluded class in and out. Perimeter wards are, however, expensive and time-consuming to install, and more so the more powerful and complex the excluded class or classes are. “Verminseal” perimeter ward, which excludes typical pests (cockroaches, pest ant species, rats, swarm-mites, etc.) isn’t cheap but it’s usually affordable by anyone who has even a reasonable amount of money; think of it as putting up a typical solid fence. Perimeter wards for people, demons, etc., are MUCH more expensive – something like paying for another full foundation for a house, digging, poured concrete, and all, around the whole perimeter of your property. Panel-and-post wards are individually warded objects – posts, which go into the ground, and panels, which may be flat pieces of board or stone or whatever or may be attractive picket fences or anything else – which prevent passage by the target, and are MUCH cheaper and easy to install. However, there are small gaps between the end of the Panel-and-Post and your entry gate – something Poplock exploits.
  • “… armor seemed to flow…”: The magical capabilities of the Raiments have been mentioned, but this is the first time we’ve seen that they have the ability to, in effect, put themselves onto their owner. This capability is a reference to quite a number of anime, especially the God-Warrior genre like Saint Seiya and Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, and the live-action sentai shows.

 

Chapter 46.

  • This chapter is one of the oldest in terms of its basic imagery – going back about 20 years. I wanted to have it look like my heroine is trapped and needs to be rescued, and then have her – with some setbacks – break out of her imprisonment and end up rescuing the person who gave her the chance to do so. I did not want Kyri to be a damsel in distress – just to let Thornfalcon think she was.

 

 

Chapter 47.

  • “This weapon… it gives up nothing against heavier blades.”: It is possible to enchant weapons to have characteristics very different from their apparent physical form. Thornfalcon’s rapier still moves like its physical shape dictates, but strikes like a much longer and heavier weapon. This is also true of Poplock’s “Steelthorn” after Khoros enchanted it. Kyri’s blade, conversely, strikes as its physical appearance suggests, but moves as a much, much lighter blade.
  • “… and somehow I feel this is but the beginning.”: Thornfalcon has considerable prescience in this, though it doesn’t do him any good in the long run. He would class the Five (Xavier’s group) in that area, and also Ingram Camp-Bel and Urelle Vantage; all of these play significant parts in events around the world.

 

Chapter 48.

  • “I had thought myself well-equipped…”: Tobimar certainly had weapons forged by the finest smiths, and presumably enchanted by the best methods, available in Skysand. He’s a Prince of a not-insignificant country. It is thus very significant to him to realize just what level he’s playing at – a level that makes the finest weapons of his country look, effectively, little better than toys, and which requires him to use guile and his other talents to make up for the lack.

 

Chapter 49.

  • “Of course. The attack on Evanwyl could not have been an accident…”: Here we see the answer to a question that Kyri, and perhaps readers, have pondered: Evanwyl has patrols watching Rivendream Pass and riding the borders near the mountains. How could an assault force of such monstrous creatures suddenly attack the capital village without warning? The answer, obviously, is that someone – Thornfalcon – had a way to bring them into the country past all patrols, without being detected, and could lead them to his target area.
  • Poplock disappearing into the underbrush: And here, of course, is the scene almost perfectly depicted by Todd Lockwood on the cover.

 

Chapter 50.

  • Xavier’s return: The original ending of Phoenix Rising was shorter here and didn’t have this battle at all (though there was more at the end of the book). It was pointed out to me that if Xavier was going to show up at all, he should have some significant role to play. Thus I added the earlier sections with him, and while contemplating his role overall realized that I hadn’t actually explained the assault on Evanwyl earlier, and that all I needed to do was shift a certain portal used to bring the creatures in from its prior position to one under Thornfalcon’s house, and I had a new battle and one that Xavier could very much help in. It also made more sense with Thornfalcon’s expanded role in the final drafts.

 

Chapter 51.

  • Khoros’ methods: The discussions and comparisons of events here show that someone – most likely Khoros – has been manipulating things for a long, long time. As we know that Khoros was involved in bringing the Five over, we know he was on Earth,and thus the similarities between Xavier’s history and Kyri’s would seem to have their origins in Khoros’ work.

 

Chapter 52.

  • Gallire and Lehi: readers will recall that these were the two girls helping with the ceremony in the temple, the night that Rion was killed; Kyri saved their father from the monsters Thornfalcon had released.
  • “And now the Balanced Sword speaks to me.”: I wanted to show that even the priest of a weakened, fading god is a force to reckon with. We had seen Kelsley’s willingness to risk his life to heal; it was important to me that we also see that he could be equally passionate about delivering Justice and Vengeance.

 

Chapter 53.

  • Story-wise it’s unsurprising that Kyri and Tobimar are attracted to each other. Character-wise it’s not surprising either. Tobimar has many of the heroic characteristics Kyri associates with her other favorite male figure (even if he’s more about speed and accuracy than sheer strength and power), her brother, and Kyri is similarly heroic, and specifically is strong, wise for her age, and has the same dynamic beauty as Tobimar’s mother, his major female role model.
  • “Walking together”: Obviously this is a Skysand euphemism for “going out” or “dating”, and etiquette in Skysand must be fairly strict.
  • “Won’t let the adventures of tomorrow rob us of what we have today”: Originally, Phoenix Rising ended with a real cliffhanger (which is now one of the early chapters of Phoenix in Shadow). As Baen didn’t know for sure whether we would do the whole trilogy, they wanted me to try to make the book as standalone as possible. This was difficult since obviously there are a lot of threads still left unraveled in the plot, ones that can’t be tied up until the ultimate Big Bad behind the fall of the Justiciars is tracked down and punished. I did the best I could, however. This ending is one part of what I did (i.e., ending at a good “breathing spot” in the plot); the other was to make Thornfalcon a much more active player. Originally the sections from Thornfalcon’s PoV were those of the False Justiciar’s patron, and things went somewhat differently (the Patron was the one who killed Rion Vantage, for instance). By making Thornfalcon the actual killer and more of a “face”, it at least gave some closure to this book by letting Kyri get some measure of real vengeance.