Monday, December 29, 2014

The law of the plains, chapter 10

(This is chapter 10 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, the tribe sent a rescue party to find Wakaree and Yahnee that are lost in the plains. But the plains, at night, are a dangerous place....

Six riders and thirteen horses. Their gallop should have made enough noise to wake every animal and spirit of the plains, yet they were as silent as a prowling cat. Kotsoteka [Buffalo Eater], a stout Nʉmʉ as large as he was tall (which was not much, thankfully for his horse), was Gifted with the ability to muffle all the sounds in a relatively large area around him, a talent that was extremely convenient for hunters. Some braves did not like this Gift, saying that it was the mark of a coward, that they needed to proudly yell their war cries in order to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies. But Kanaretah was wise and she understood very well that there was no cowardice in following the Law of the Plains. Only fools disregarded Gifts that gave the tribes an edge, and fools usually did not live long.

Still, there was the problem of finding Wakaree. That was the task of Tabbananica [Sun Eagle], the other brave of the band Gifted with the Eyes of the Eagle. Eagles were a legendary species of birds that had lived beyond the stars and that were said to be able to see from the celestial vault to the deepest caves in the bellies of which the evil that stained the Plains was birthed. Sadly, Tabbananica had been wounded and had lost an eye, taken by a morlock who had bit his face. As a result, his gift was nowhere near as good as Wakaree's : he saw well but he had to look twice as hard, so to speak. Kanaretah swore under her breath. The band used to also have three women with the Gift of the Eyes but they all had died past season. One had passed away giving birth, another had been found killed by exposure after a particularly severe tornado had wrecked havoc on the band. The last one had died defending kids during a morlock attack. Sadly, it was nothing out of the ordinary, such was the life on the Plains, violent and brutal. It was the price to pay to live freely under the sky and not like a dog in a cage, like the coward dwellers of the fortified cities.

Kanaretah was a fatalist. Losing a member of the band was always tragic but the Nʉmʉ rarely had time to mourn and as their leader she had to think of the living first. Sometimes, it made things easier, and then again, sometimes it didn't. Tonight, it didn't. Losing Yahneequena meant the band would lose one of their main edge against the morlocks, their ability to detect them early and flee. She liked the young brave, but more than that he was an asset that could mean life and death for dozens of persons. Not for the first time, she swore and swore again. Foolishness was still man's worse enemy. How could he had gone scouting alone?

She was jerked out her ruminating thoughts when Tabbananica raised his hand. It was not the sign for a friendly.

"What now?", she whispered when she got near him. She never raised her voice, even when under the Gift of Silence. It was a bad habit, one which could get you killed if you ever raised your voice without somebody with the Gift near you. Kanaretah despised bad habits.

"I see Wakaree", said the wizened Nʉmʉ with the same tone.
"Then, why do you signal enemies?", she said.
"That's the problem," he said. "I see him at the edge of my eyesight. There is a whole pack of razorcats between us."
Kanaretah growled.
"Yes, it doesn't get easier, does it?" said the old man sympathetically.
"We just need a tornado and a morlock horde on our tails and we'll have accumulated bad luck for a lifetime on a single night. she said while trying to think of their next move. Little did she know that  she was soon going to be proved right.

"Well, at least you don't have warts on your ass like I do!" chuckled her old friend.

"Hush." She wasn't in the mood for banter.

Razorcats were a particularly vicious predator, even among the litany of carnivorous animals that roamed the plains. They looked a bit like a very big house cat, slim but very tall. They  had a long fur that made them look a lot bigger than they really were and that protected them of the harsh weather of the plains. But more than that, their fur were their most terrifying  weapon. In a similar fashion to their smaller cousins the morduans, who were able to hide in blade-grass unscathed by selectively hardening some of their fur, the razorcats hardened theirs in long blades that protruded from their back, cranium and paws. Their hunting strategy was simple. They went for the towering Kʉtsʉtoya, ran under them and slashed their unprotected bellies and legs. They were not particularly swift, since they only had to keep up with their relatively slow prey, but they were capable of lightning fast accelerations that enabled them to inflict multiple wounds while avoiding being trampled. Even Gifted humans were in danger when facing these killers and the safest way to handle them was either to scare them with numbers or to outrun them, which was reasonably easy for the natural born riders that were the Nʉmʉ.

Tabbananica echoed Kanaretah's thoughts.
"A whole pack, 9 of them. They have not heard us, but they are awake, the vibration of the ground must have warned them".
"Yes. Fortunately we are under the wind. If they smell us, we'll never be able to reach Wakaree and Yahnee."
Bowahquasuh [Iron Shirt] moved forward. "I'll distract them with Kotsoteka" she said. Of course she volunteered, of them all, she was the least worried by the razorcats. She possessed a rare Gift among the Nʉmʉ, the Iron Shirt she was named after. Her skin had a faint metallic gleam and was resistant to slashes and punctures, a mutation that was invaluable in the Northern Plains where some varieties of grass could cut like blades. Plus, it acted as a permanent sun protection, which was far from a trivial things in the sea of grass, where shade was almost non-existent.

"No. I need him. We don't know what wounded Yahneequena and what scared Wakaree so much, and I'd rather stay hidden inasmuch possible. Tosawi, can Pisunii reach Wakaree from here?"
Tosawi's eyes momentarily lost their focus as she talked to her partner. "No. I'm sorry, it's too far. She can't see him, she can't smell him, for her it's extremely difficult to establish contact without these."

"I could spirit walk to him, but it tires me a lot if I can't see them." said Tabbaquena.
"No, don't. Tabbananica, point me in the right direction. The spirits devour me if I can't track them! Then you and Bowahquasuh, you head away from where the Twins wake. As soon as you are far enough from Kotsoteka, the razorcats will hear you. Give them the mightiest cry, lead them as far as you can, then lose them and go back to camp."
"Haa Haa", said the braves in unison. They looked at each other and smiled. They knew that what they were going to do was dangerous, but they had seen worse and trusted each other and their mounts.

"I will ask the wind to stay with us. If they smell us, it's over", said Towasi. The young woman possessed a Gift that was quite rare among the Nʉmʉ: she was a Friend of the Winds, she could direct them somewhat.  The most potent Wind Wielders, as they were called in Gond, could create gusts out of nothing, but Towasi's ability was very far from this kind of magic. She could only instinctively influence the direction of the winds, an ability that probably had appeared to help humans survive the devastating tornadoes that regularly swept the plains.
"You do that", said Kanaretah. And like that, they got moving.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The law of the plains, chapter 9

(This is chapter 9 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, the tribe received Wakaree's cry for help and sent a search party to rescue him and his rider Yahnee, unconscious after a morlocks attack.

I have to apologize for the wait, but unforeseen events have stalled me quite a bit. I should be able to post on a more consistent schedule now.)

The departing braves left around fifty people behind them. A dozen of them were children, two dozens were warriors, and the rest were non-combatants and elderly people. Non-combatants actually was not really the word for it : most people on Yaghan were trained to fight the ever-present menace of the morlocks, and the people of the Nʉmʉ tribes even more so since they lived in the plains without walls to protect them. Suffice it to say that hunting and fighting was just not their primary occupations. 

They all started packing the camp, a task they were supremely efficient at. Their very survival depended on their ability to outwit and outrun the morlocks as soon as they detected them. Usually a party of braves would attract the attention of the monsters and lead them away from camp while the rest of the band fled in the opposite direction. The incredible eyesight of some braves, the Gift they called the Eyes of the Eagle, was a great asset to coordinate such tactics. The fact that they were way more mobile than the morlocks thanks to their superior horsemanship also helped, of course.

It was a dangerous way of life still, one which depended on everybody's ability to work together. The tipis were easy to disassemble and their long poles were loaded on sturdy little chariots that were pulled by tough carthorses. Horses were the pride of the Nʉmʉ. The telepathic ability displayed by some of their horses enhanced their abilities to a supernatural level, as man and mount acted together as if they only had one mind. There was more than five horses for each human, all bred for various purposes. Some were tough workhorses, some were very fast, some were tall and proud steeds that carried their riders fearlessly into battle. Herding so many animals was a daunting task, that was made easier thanks to the help of the Gifted ones as well as of the many big Gifted dogs that were the other companions of the people of the Plains.

Very soon, everything was packed in woven baskets and ready to load on spare horses at a moment's notice. The fires were put out, the chariots filled to the brim and harnessed to their puller. Then started the worst part of the lives of the Nʉmʉ. The wait.

Everybody knew that in everything were morlocks were involved, death was not very far away. They all had lost somebody, a parent, a friend, a fellow tribesman or an horse to this scourge of humanity. Even with the best organization, even with the best horses, spears and warriors on their side, nothing was ever certain. Morlocks were a changing subspecies, they always evolved, always got stronger. In every encounter, there was always a new variation, with a new terrifying mutation. You could never completely be prepared and the only solution was to be ready to adapt as fast as possible, which was far from easy when fear clenched your gut.

A young woman drew out a little wooden flute and started playing softly. The drums were packed, and making too much noise was probably not a brilliant idea, so the people that joined her tapped with their palms against their chest or thighs. Manoeka, an elderly woman, started singing slowly an ancient tune, the  moon song. Maybe it would draw out Ebimʉa, the blue moon which was a benevolent presence in the skies, a symbol of good luck, to replace Epimʉa, that was known as Rust in Gond, and which was an ill omen. The soft song, even if it was not played loudly, warmed the heart of all the humans present. In turn, their Gifted four legged companions picked up on their mood and relaxed, which helped calm the other animals that did not share the Gift. The voice of the old singer was like a collective respiration, a deep breath that released the grip of fear on their hearts. Patiently, they waited.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Law of the plains, Chapter 8

(This is chapter 8 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, a strange morlock saw Yahnee's spirit form and almost killed him in a combat of the minds. His Gifted horse Wakaree is trying to telepathically contact the tribe and bring him back.)

Pisunii was dreaming a horse dream, galloping gleefully in the morning dew with her rider Tosawi ["Silver Knife"] on her back, when it suddenly started to fade into something else. She saw her little brother, the young and happy Wakaree, running towards her. As he grew closer, the dew dried, the grass withered, the sky darkened and the wind started howling a song of anguish, pain and despair. She reduced her gait, from a gallop to a trot, to a slow walk. Wakaree caught up to her, his flanks heaving and glistening with sweat. His eyes were wide open, his nostrils flared and he smelled terrified. "Help!" he cried repeatedly, over and over. His voice grew louder and louder and soon Pisunii realized that it wasn't a dream. Wakaree was calling from beyond the dream world. She woke.

It was the middle of the night. Only the light of the sanguine moon lighted the camp. She shivered. That moon made her uncomfortable. Her tail started swinging nervously from side to side. Careful not to step on the sleeping humans laying on the soft grass, she headed to her rider/sister, Tosawi, and started nudging her. The people of the plains always slept lightly and the brave was no exception. She instantly woke, her hand reaching for the knife that never left her. Realizing it was her partner, she relaxed instantly and petted her soft muzzle.

"Hey, Pisunii, are you scared, love?" she said softly.

The Gifted horse turned her ears towards her friend and started projecting the pictures of her dream to the mind of the young hunter. The woman shivered when she saw and felt the anguish emanating from Wakaree's message. Throwing the furs she was sleeping in aside, she quickly got up and shouted the second alarm call.
The Nʉmʉ had devised different ways to get a whole tribe on the move quickly. One alarm call meant "The enemy is upon us, take your weapons and defend your lives". Another, the one Tosawi was yelling at that moment, meant "Everybody wake up, start packing your things and stand by for orders." Yet another simply meant, "Gather everything, we are leaving camp as soon as possible." Every Nʉmʉ new the meaning of each cry and knew exactly what they had to do. Her people started to rise, dazed and confused, but a lifetime of habit took over and they all got to their task as fast as they could. It was a strange sight in a way: the camp started to hustle with activity, but they all tried to keep as silent as possible. You never knew.

The women and the men of the tribes were completely equal. Your duty to the tribe was mostly based on your capacities and your particular talents. Of course, there was still more warrior men than women since they were usually stronger physically, but it was not the rule and the Gifts had evened the playing field considerably. Pure physical strength was a detail when one was able to create powerful wind blasts or to control where lightning stroke during a storm.

Hence, the warriors, men and women alike, headed towards Kanaretah ["One That Rides The Clouds"], the War Chief of the band, while the others started packing the camp. The Peace Chief, a huge man named Boyahwahtoyahe footnote:["Iron Mountain"] also joined the warriors: he had to know if the tribe was going to leave or stay in place, as he was the one in charge when the warriors were gone.
Kanaretah was a middle-aged woman who was Gifted with the ability to predict the weather, find any source of water, and condense any moisture present in the air. She was a fantastic equestrian and her horse Neraquassi  ["Golden Horse"], a magnificent palomino, was the fastest of the band. She was also a superb archer doubled with a talented tactician that stayed calm under the worst circumstances, but it was her gift that made her particularly fearsome : she could fill the morlocks' lungs with water and make them drown in the open air, or suck the moisture from their eyes and blind them. Apart from Tabbaquena the shaman, nobody was as Gifted as she was, which was also why she was chosen as War Chief.
She had gotten up with Tosawi's cry and she was already dressed. She tied her long raven black hairs behind her back as the warriors rushed to gather around her.

The twenty or so braves quickly formed a circle. When they were done, she hailed Towasi.
"What is going on, explain yourself, quickly!" You could guess she normally had a soft and beautiful voice, but right now, it was as hard as steel.
"Pisunii was contacted by Wakaree. She showed me the images he sent her, he was terribly afraid and Yahneequena was slouched on his back, unmoving. I don't know what is happening but something is very wrong".
"Why is he alone, by all the Spirits!" said Kanaretah, and there was ice in her voice.
"Pahiitʉ-Saari is sick", said a voice behind the circle of warriors. It was Yahnee's mother.
"And nobody else could go with him?" asked Kanaretah angrily.
Every person present suddenly found themselves studying their feet intensely. The Nʉmʉ owned up to their mistakes: the acts of one were the responsibility of all so no one even thought of pointing out that Yahnee had gone out on his own. Besides, they all knew that once this incident was over, Kanaretah would make them pay their lack of discipline with excruciating maneuvering sessions.
Finally, someone dared to speak.
"Any pʉetʉyai around them?" asked Boyahwahtoyahe with his low, booming voice.
"Don't think so. Wakaree probably would have shown them to Pisunii" answered Tosawi. "He was trying to bring Yahnee back, it seems. No sign of wound or anything, no blood."
"Haa Haa", nodded the Peace Chief. The braves of the band started muttering, all of them wondering what could have happened that Wakaree would send such a desperate cry for help.
Kanaretah was also the War Chief because she could make difficult decisions with incomplete information very quickly.
"Listen all!", she said, her voice loud enough to be heard by all the warriors around her.
"Everybody keeps packing the camp. I want everything to be ready for us to leave in the direction of  Gond, it is the nearest fortified city." She paused for an instant, staring at all the stern faces around her, making sure she was well understood. The Nʉmʉ never liked to ask for asylum in the fortified cities even though it was their ancestral right, because they had nothing but contempt for their coward inhabitants. Even though, they were survivors and fleeing meant you could fight another day, which was a good thing.
"I want 5 braves to come with me. We are going to rescue Yahneequena and bring him back. If nothing else is wrong, we'll unpack camp. In doubt, we'll leave. If something goes wrong, we'll flee to Gond."
"Haa, Haa" they all said in unison.
"Boyahwahtoyahe, you see anything unusual, you leave, got it?"
He nodded his assent.
"For the rescue party, I want you all to take one spare horse each. Towasi, you take another one for Yahneequena, Wakaree is probably spent. Tabbaquena, I hate to put you in danger, but if Yahneequena is wounded, we might need you."
The shaman stepped forward. "I think it is wise. I'll get ready", he said, then he left to his tipi to gather the herbs and potions he needed. He also started barking instructions at the young Nʉmʉs that were tasked with packing his stuff.
"Alright. All is set. Let's ride out, warriors", shouted Kanaretah.
The deafening war cry of the band answered her, then they dispersed to their duty.

Within moments, the rescue party was ready and riding out of camp.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The law of the plains, chapter 7

(This is chapter 6 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, Yahnee got distracted by predators from the plain, then came back as a spirit towards the wind train Veronica to witness the aftermath of the battle)

In spirit form, he explored around the train. No humans where left standing on the ground. Apparently everybody had either managed to board the Veronica or was dead and laying in the grass. There was no sign of the Elites, which meant they were likely to be alive. The locomotive was quickly gaining speed, its steam engine going at full regimen, a rare thing for a Wind Train. Coal was a rare commodity that one did not burn unless really forced to. Some morlocks tried to jump on board, but the train was well conceived and the hatches resisted their attempts to get in. Deadly spears came out of strategically placed murder holes and killed the impudent, spikes sprang out of the axles of the wheels and prevented further approach. Soon, the train had distanced the horde and was safely speeding away.

What a relief!

Yahnee decided to stay only long enough to count the rough number of morlocks before going back to his band and ordering them to move. As a scout he was used to quickly estimating the size of a horde of pʉetʉyai or of a herd of kʉtsʉtoya. His work was made somewhat harder because they had surrounded the twelve compartments of the train and had tried to catch up with it, so they were really spread out. After a few seconds, he realized that even if they were really spread out, there was probably more than a thousand heads and at least 2 hundred more dead, staining the grass of the plains with the stench of their foul blood. In one place, he found a circular area surrounded by morlock corpses. He guessed that it was where he had seen the explosion. Whatever had happened here, its force had been truly enormous and had managed to project the cadaver of the kʉtsʉtoya that had blocked the rails several hundred feet away from it.

Wait.

No, this corpse, it moved… Hence... It wasn't a corpse!

Yahnee's spirit got closer.

When he finally understood what his eyes were telling him, he was so terrified that he forgot to go back to his body.

A great morlock, that looked almost human and that was dressed in a patchwork of looted armor parts, stood on top of the giant animal. The latter was definitely alive and seemed completely tamed. Slowly, the straggling morlocks gathered back around it.

That did not make sense. Pʉetʉyai were not smart enough to tame the unruly kʉtsʉtoya . They did not have leaders, just alphas that were stronger and more violent than the average, if that was possible. Yahnee knew he should not have, he knew he had to leave and report this to Kanaretah and Tabbaquena, but it was too unusual. Curious as a cat, the young Nʉmʉ moved in closer to take a better look.

That's when the morlock shivered and turned towards him.

His skin was the color of ash, a lifeless white gray. Every visible inch of it was covered in scars. He looked even more battered than the average morlock, quite a feat considering that the monsters constantly fought among themselves for dominance.

He had a lipless mouth, that looked just like one more scar across his face. His eyes locked with Yahnee's, as if he was really there. His mouth opened in the parody of smile, revealing a row of triangular, razor sharp teeth. His gaze was malicious and malevolent and more than anything, it was the gaze of an intelligent being. But what startled Yahnee most was that he had the same black eyes as the dark warrior, a golden ring over an all-black iris.

The creature snarled. The glowing ring started burning a fiery red.

Yahnee tried to flee, frantically he tried moving the feet of his real body, the most certain way to be propelled back in it. Nothing.
Nothing.
Nothing!
He wanted to scream but nothing came out of his ghostly lungs.
He tried to turn around but he could only see one thing, the fiery red circle that grew and grew and filled his mind.
"Wakaree! Wakaree, help me! Wakaree!" he screamed, but nothing happened. The red circle still grew, transfixing and implacable. He wanted to run, to fly away from this evil ghost but he felt as if he was glued, as if he was running in quicksand. Every movement was slow and painful.
"Wakaree!" he yelled again, but his voice was muffled, the tiny voice of a mouse squeaking before an immense predator that filled the sky.
Desperate, knowing that the only issue was death, he stopped trying to escape and mustering all his courage, he grabbed his fighting lance. It was not there, of course, but his spirit recreated it in his hands. He pictured every detail of its shaft, the carvings and decorative fringes, the feathers and beads, its reassuring weight, its long blade made of meteoric iron, and suddenly it was there.
He yelled his war cry, and his voice was not muffled anymore, it was the proud war cry of the Nʉmʉ, the promise of a certain death for their enemies.

A deafening roar answered him and suddenly, the golden eyed morlock was right next to him, charging with a dark blade made of volcanic rock. Yahnee just had time to be surprised, morlocks did not usually use weapons… Very briefly, it occurred to him once again that the morlock shouldn't have seen his spirit form, let alone attack it. Then he stopped thinking altogether, and he parried the strike frantically with the shaft of his lance. It did not break, of course, it was as strong as Yahnee's will, but he felt the impact in his mind. He immediately went on the offensive with a vicious stab to his adversary's face. He had the advantage of reach, nevertheless the morlock dodged the strike effortlessly and retaliated with an amazingly powerful strike to Yahnee's gut. Once again, he parried with his lance, once again the impact shook his mind and his sanity vacillated. For a few seconds, the pain blinded him. They were not really fighting of course, it was a contest of will that Yahnee's mind translated in actual fighting moves.

Frantically, he tried  to backpedal, without effect. His spirit was stuck, like a bee caught in molasses. He struck again, trying to feint with a wicked thrust to what should have been the beast's blind spot… But spirits did not have blind spots.
The morlock caught the lance's blade in his bare hand and dropped his sword. Then, with a furious howl, he rushed forward and grabbed Yahnee's throat. He had claws instead of nails, sharp ivory claws that dug in Yahnee's flesh, drawing etheric blood. Yahnee wrestled him, trying to stab the morlock's golden eyes with his fingers but the monster was impossibly far away. He felt his whole etheric body being rended by its deadly grip, pain racked his mind, bringing him closer and closer to insanity. The morlock started laughing, an heinous, terrible laugh that sounded like madness incarnate.

Yahnee suddenly lost consciousness. The last thing he felt was a bone chilling cry of rage, as the prey eluded the predator.  

Wakaree was shivering with fear. He felt his brother tensing with pain on his back , screaming his name at the top of his lung, howling his war cry, yelling with terrible pain and fear. The proud horse kept calling Yahnee's name. "Brother Yahnee. Wakaree fear. Wakaree loves Brother Yahnee. Brother Yahnee come ride with Wakaree. Ride. Together. Fear. Brother Yahnee!". He feared for his friend's life more than he had ever feared for his own. The poor horse could not formulate these complex thoughts of course, but he would have gladly given his life ten times over just to hear his friend say his name and stop suffering. But his desire and his love for the young brave, as great as they were, did not end the pain. Yahnee kept yelling and yelling and yelling, his pain flooding the poor steed's mind. And then nothing. Yahnee's body went limp and his mind disappeared. It was still here but very faint, oh so very faint, fainter than a sleeper's mind. Somehow, he stayed in his saddle, his hands clenched on the horse's mane, his legs so tense against Wakaree's flanks that he remained stable.

Desperate, the steed did the only thing he could think of: he brought his brother back to the tribe, to the shaman who healed the bodies and spirits of humans and horses alike. He started to trot, as carefully as he could, as fast as he dared to without letting his brother fall. His despair fueled his muscles, all his senses heightened by his fear of losing his most important person in the whole world. He broadcast his thoughts has far as he could, his poor horse mind shaking from the tension of such a desperate measure. He was trying to reach the mind of Pisunii ["Little Star"], his sister, a proud mare as Gifted as he was. Suddenly he felt her and started shouting the only thing that he could think about. "Help! Help! Help!" over and over and over. He felt Pisunii answer him and relief washed over him. Then the connection broke. He was too tired and his task was done. Pisunii would bring the tribe to Yahnee. He stopped running, he was too tired to think, he just trying to keep his brother on his back. He started the long walk back home.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The law of the plains, chapter 6

(This is chapter 6 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, Yahnee stumbled on a stopped wind train and Spirit Walked to it to understand the situation. There, elite warriors from Gond managed to repel the horde of morlocks thanks to their ability to shape  reality)

"Brother Yahnee. Fear. Pointy teeth. Fear. Pointy teeth. Fight. Brother Yahnee".

Wakaree's cry snapped Yahnee out of his fascination, sending him back to his body. Under him, he felt Wakaree's muscles shiver with tension. It was a mix of fear and aggression, the natural response of a horse confronted to a predator. Wakaree was well trained and was used to battle so his response was comparatively calm but Yahnee understood the danger immediately. The swift and sudden movements of the long grass leaves left no doubt to a seasoned hunter.

"Carnirats. Wakaree, you did good calling me." said Yahnee. The horse held his ears straight and slightly turned towards his rider, waiting for further instructions.

A sound behind them, a high pitched cry. Yahnee reached for his bow, but Wakaree was faster and with a stomp of his hindquarters he crushed the head of the first carnirat foolish enough to try to nip his legs. Yahnee let loose an arrow with a twang of the sinewy string of his bow and killed another. Carnirats where the other plague of the plains, animals the size of a big cat that lived in burrows and hunted in packs, inflicting hundreds of small wounds to preys much bigger than them with their razor sharp teeth. The Nʉmʉ hated them with a passion and destroyed any nest they encountered. Like the morlocks, they were fearsome adversaries on their own, but they became really deadly in numbers. They could overwhelm any animal, even the towering kʉtsʉtoya, king of the plains. Fortunately, tonight, it was only a small pack. Yahnee let loose the war cry of the Nʉmʉ, a piercing, high pitched wailing sound that was so bone-chilling that even carnirats recoiled when they heard it. At this sound, Wakaree sprang forward. He trampled some of the rats and momentarily broke their ranks, but the small devils were soon to follow. They tried to nip at his heels again but Yahnee was faster and killed one after the other with well placed arrows. When finally he was out of ammunition, he grabbed his short lance, ready to skewer the closest rats. He did not have too, though, the rats stopped pursuing them: a prey that fought back this hard was not worth it.

Normally Yahnee would have turned back and killed the stragglers and every rat he could find, but he was alone, and alone, you just savored the victory of the day and did not push your luck too much. It was a small pack but more could be lurking around, too many for Yahnee to deal with maybe. The risk was not worth it. Thanks to his sharp vision, they retraced their steps, so that Yahnee could recover as many arrows as possible. Some he did not find, the wounded rats had probably crawled into a burrow to die.

His thoughts came back to the train and he wondered if it had managed to escape the horde of morlocks. He looked in the direction of the battle and was momentarily blinded by a huge explosion. He was many miles away, but he still felt the shock wave from this distance.

"Wakaree, I have to know what is going on." said Yahnee. "You be good my friend, be alert, carnirats are probably still near. You protect me, Wakaree. I'll be right back." The proud palomino was glistening with sweat. Wakaree did not manage to answer back, he was too excited, the pictures in his mind were too blurred. Still Yahnee was confident Wakaree would relax. He knew his partner well.

He closed his eyes and once again, imagined himself standing next to the train, imagined every detail of the scene, then pushed. His consciousness was displaced to that point and just like that, he was out of his body. Almost instantly, he was there, a few dozen feet in front of the locomotive, a ghost hovering above the smooth grass of the plains.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The law of the plains, chapter 5

(This is chapter 5 of the Law of the plains. In the previous chapter, Yahnee stumbled on a stopped wind train and Spirit Walked to it to understand the situation. Also, please note that the words pʉetʉyai [ghost] and morlock are equivalent, the former being the Nʉmʉ word for the latter)

Suddenly, he noticed a few humans that were different from the typical civilian passenger. They were dressed and equipped like warriors. They moved with supernatural speed and agility and their weapons seemed like an extension of themselves. They managed to stand up to the morlocks, it even seemed that they mowed them down with ease. It did not matter if the wretched humans perverted by Tanasi-pʉetʉyai  seemed bigger and stronger. It did not matter if they had bone blades protruding from their arms or the fangs of a carnirat or if they had razor sharp claws instead of fingernails or, for the weirdest ones,  if they had long prehensile tails with a stinger… Every single pʉetʉyai was a different travesty of a human being, each one was more alien and more frightful than the next, each was a vicious, enraged killing machine but against those warriors, it did not seem to matter. They fought back fiercely and their feats of courage were almost more monstrous than the pʉetʉyai themselves.

One of them, a tall wiry soldier with dark hair and a black bezainted leather armor, rushed to the aid of two passengers that were cornered by morlocks. Unfortunately, the beasts were faster than him and tore the poor fellows to shreds before he got to them. As usual, they started fighting among themselves for the remains of their preys. The dark-haired soldier seemed to blank for a second, just enough for Yahnee to take a good look at him. He was only slightly older than Yahnee, but he exuded something special, an intensity that was rarely seen, even in the greatest shamans of the tribes. He seemed more "real" than everything around him. Then Yahnee noticed his eyes: his irises were pitch black, but there was something else. A golden ring circled his pupils and as anger started to swell in him, that ring changed color and glowed a fiery red.
Suddenly, somebody started to call for help at the front of the train. The dark warrior turned around and started running in that direction. Intrigued, Yahnee followed him. Sadly, once again the soldier was too late: another civilian, a boy not 14 revolutions old, was laying under a pʉetʉyai, screaming in pain. Yahnee realized that nothing could have saved him now, he was too badly wounded. The dark soldier did not even pause. He ran past the terrible spectacle and threw a dagger that lodged itself up to the hilt in the cranium of the poor lad, as if it the bone was made of butter. In a flash, Yahnee understood why: the dark warrior was indeed a shaman, or as they said in Gond, a Shaper. He was blessed with the greatest Gift there was: he could change the very reality around him, which was probably how he made his daggers and his swords impossibly sharp. Yahnee had been told that his own Gifts were essentially the same thing, but he had never believed that. He was just a young brave that enjoyed riding in the plains and making war to the pʉetʉyai .

Yahnee regained his wit. He had drifted off for an instant and he had almost been sent back to his body. Being the witness of such a great Gift was so incredibly exceptional that despite the savagery of the battle, Yahnee was in awe. At the speed of thought he gained back on the dark warrior. The man had reached the front of the train and, a blade in each hand, had launched himself on a mass of morlocks that had cornered another combatant against the shield of the train. On the tracks laid a dead kʉtsʉtoya.
It made sense, that was why the train had stopped! Satisfied that he had elucidated at least that mystery, he turned back to watch the Elites fighting. What he saw defied everything he had imagined about the famed soldiers. The Nʉmʉ were no cowards. On the contrary, they had the reputation of being fearsome fighters, the very best on the planet. Yahnee himself thought he was a great warrior... But these two men were in another league entirely.
The dark man moved so fast that the eye could barely follow his hands. Since his blades cut through flesh and bones as if they were not there, pretty much each of his strikes killed or maimed a morlock. His companion, a giant man with a crazy Mohawk, was equally fearsome, perhaps even more so. Each of the blows of his enormous hammer killed a pʉetʉyai and sent it flying backwards, knocking down several others. It did not matter if it was a small, hungry, snarling demon or a hulking, seven foot towering monster, they seemed light as feathers all the same. He had seemed in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of pʉetʉyai despite his terrifying strength, but with the assistance of the dark haired warrior, he started to push back the mass of attackers. It was impossible!

Once again, it occurred to Yahnee that he had to leave and warn his band, now that he knew what was happening. The people on the train would or would not manage to escape the pʉetʉyai, it did not matter to him. His duty was to make sure the band was safe. Then maybe the braves would lead a war expedition. They would ride their horses and find and destroy the beasts, cleansing the purity of the plains from this foul evil. Such was the Law of the Plains: insure the survival of your own first. If you lived another day, you could always avenge the dead.

Once again, his thoughts were interrupted. The dark warrior had picked up an oil lantern that was lighting the scene and had thrown it far into the mass of morlocks. The lantern exploded in a huge ball of fire. As a spirit, Yahnee should not have felt the heat, but he did. More than that, he felt that the very fabric of reality was mangled ; he was pulled and pushed and sheared and punched and choked… He jumped back, propelling himself high in the sky, above the clouds. It was a common mistake for Spirit Walkers, movement occurred at the speed of thought and fright could send you anywhere. Yahnee calmed down and jumped back towards the train. The warrior had just used a very powerful  magic, changing the small flame of the lantern in dozens of phantasmatic fire spirits that jumped from one morlock to the next, burning them horribly. The reprise enabled the two warriors to help a civilian that was hiding behind Mohawk's large back to escape to the safety of the train.

Above them, in the train's pilot deck, Yahnee heard somebody bark orders. The train's crew had mostly reintegrated the safety of the steel compartments and started raining projectiles on the morlocks. The train's chimney started billowing smoke. Mohawk rushed to the huge body of the kʉtsʉtoya. It was half-cured, the crew had apparently been busy working on it in order to be able to clear the tracks, and food, especially meat, never went to waste on Yaghan which was probably why they had stopped for so long. Once again Yahnee felt the fabric of reality tremble, only on a much smaller scale than when the dark haired one had created an explosion. The great warrior started the titanic task of moving what was left of the carcass out of the tracks. It should have been impossible, the remains of the great body probably still weighed as much as a couple horses, but these mens were not bound by the laws of reality and inches by inches, the corpse of the animal moved out of the way.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Law of the Plains, chapter 4

(This is the direct continuation of chapter 3 of "The Law of the Plains")

Wakaree, sensing his rider's anguish, reared with a deafening neigh.

"By the Eagle Spirit, Wakaree, hush, calm down, sorry I yelled, don't be afraid buddy" cajoled Yahnee, forgetting his own fear and stroking the shivering collar of his partner. Then, to himself, "Where do they come from? I did not see them coming, what trick of the evil spirits is it? How is it possible?"

He knew he had to leave, he had to report the attack to his tribe and get them moving, but curiosity got the best of him. He had to see what was happening, it was too strange. Besides, the Veronica was probably defended by Gond's famed elite warriors, men and women trained in the legendary Battle School, an institution that had instructed the best warriors that had ever walked on Yaghan. He could not get close though, not with Wakaree, it was too dangerous and it would be too slow anyway. So he decided to Spirit Walk instead.

"Wakaree, calm down, calm down..." he repeated to his horse. Then he gave him instructions in a language that the horse could understand: "Listen Wakaree: you protect me. Yahnee sprit walks now, Wakaree calls Yahnee if Wakaree is scared. Wakaree protects. Wakaree protects. Wakaree calls Yahnee if Wakaree is scared. Tell me what you will do now."

Wakaree neighed his understanding and said telepathically "Good. Wakaree protects brother Yahnee. Wakaree protects. Wakaree scared, Wakaree says 'brother Yahnee'. Good. Wakaree protects. Good. Happy."
He was a battle horse, having clear instructions gave him purpose which in turn helped him to calm down. Yahnee relaxed a bit. He was so proud of his partner. They had grown up together and loved each other like siblings, despite being different species. It felt good, in the uncertainty of the night, to know that he could rely on the proud palomino and trust him with his life.

Spirit Walking was his second Gift, one that often came with the Eyes because they complemented each other perfectly. Any shaman could spirit walk, but all they could see was the spirit world, a reflection of our own where emotions held more significance than matter. It was different from what Yahnee was doing: people like him that spirit walked to something within their real line of sight saw it as if they were really there, like ghostly observers. Even weirder, they kept that clarity even if they went out of sight behind the object they were watching. Magic wasn't completely coherent or if it was, humans did not understand everything. Of course, all this meant very little to Yahnee. He only knew he could do it and how and that was enough for him. He took a deep breath, then took a good look at the scene of chaos that unfolded in the distance. Then he closed his eyes and imagined he was actually looking at it from a hundred yards away, as if he was standing not far from the Veronica. When he had a clear picture in his mind's eye, he displaced his conscience there.

When he opened his ethereal eyes, Yahnee was in the thick of the action, on the right side of the middle of the Wind Train. A lot of the passengers were outside and the sails were furled which did not make sense at all. Passengers never went out of a train usually, even if it stopped for a little time, it was too dangerous for city dwellers. They had been caught by surprise by the morlocks' assault. A lot of them where obviously not warriors and despite being armed like every Yaghanite, their feeble attempts to defend themselves with their daggers were futile… They were like children waving toothpicks in front of a kʉstʉtoya: weak and powerless. Predictably, their stronger, more vicious enemies slaughtered them. Yahnee gasped in horror when a 8 foot tall morlock killed a woman with a single punch to the face. As she fell to the ground, another morlock snatched her. A fight broke out among several monsters over her dying body. A smaller pʉetʉyai, a dwarfish parody of a human being that walked on all fours like a dog, slithered with uncanny speed and caught a young man that was running for the Veronica's nearest hatch. The disgusting, vile monster bit the poor lad's ankle, tripped him, crawled over his back in a heartbeat and bit his prey right at the base of the neck, killing him instantly. Then he started devouring the boy like a hyena eating carrion when other morlocks caught up with him. Again, as with the woman moments before, they started to fight for their prize. Sadly, this infighting was not enough and the vast majority of the morlocks kept coming at the humans.

Yahnee was a pure spirit, disconnected from his body's sensations, but even then, he felt like he was going to be sick. The young Nʉmʉ warrior had seen battles before, had fought against morlocks before, had seen people die even... But never a fight had been so uneven. He had never seen something as horrendous as those beasts dismembering the fallen to eat them right before his eyes. Yahnee was a brave, he faced the enemy resolutely, his lance and knife in hand… As a spirit, floating around the train, the invisible witness of the murder of innocent travelers, he feel desperately powerless. For the second time, he realized that he had to leave as fast as possible and tell his tribe to get moving. Given the severity of the threat, a few braves would then probably stay behind and bait the morlocks in the opposite direction. But he was stupefied, fascinated almost, by the drama that unfolded before his ethereal eyes.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Law of the Plains, chapt. 2 and 3

(This is chapters 2 and 3 of The Law of the Plains. Find the other chapters under that label).

Chapter 2


Yahneequena was an adult according to the Law of the Plains, but at 16 revolutions old, he was still quite young compared to his more seasoned comrades. He knew it was a bad idea to go scouting alone but he felt he needed to prove his comrades that he wasn't a coward. During the last hunt, a kʉtsʉtoya had charged him instead of following the decoys and he had frozen instead of doing what was expected of a hunter, putting everybody in harm's way. He owed his life to the lightning fast reflexes of his war chief, Kanaretah [Ride the Clouds] and since that day he had felt as if everybody thought he was no braver than a puppy dog. Of course, he was mistaken: every sane hunter knew how terrifying it was when something with fangs the length of your arm tried to kill you. Nevertheless he wanted to do something that would clearly prove that he was as courageous as any other hunter of the tribe. So, instead of waking his friend Kʉtsʉteka, he carefully circled around camp and hid behind the tipis, waiting for his mother to be asleep. The thought that transgressing the Law of the Plains was maybe not the best way to prove oneself did not occur to him. Finally, he saw her doze off, it was now or never. He jumped on Wakaree's back and silently, they disappeared in the dusk.

Yahneequena loved the night, despite its many dangers. The noises of the plain were different, muffled, as if all the animals did their best not to wake each other... Which was probably the case. The predators prowled in the shadows, silent and patient, ready to pounce on a lone careless animal. Their preys were equally quiet, doing their best to stay invisible in the darkness, being ever vigilant. Riding by night was far more dangerous than doing so during the day, for obvious reasons. He had to be constantly alert, watching where his horse set foot so as to avoid any holes or burrows while scanning the area for herds of predators that could be a danger to the tribe or for any sign of a weather change that could forebode the dreaded tornadoes that often swept the plains. But his main task was far more important : he had to look for any sign of the mortal enemies of mankind, the dreaded pʉetʉyai [ghosts], which were called morlocks by the people from Gond.

Yahnee repressed a shiver when he thought of the nemesis of the tribes. The shamans' songs said that in a distant past, Tanasipʉetʉyai [KingGhost], the king of the evil spirits, got angry and envious of the Nʉmʉ. In his jealousy and rage, he cursed a tribe from a distant land and turned its people into mad animals that looked only vaguely human. Fueled by rancor and spite, Tanasipʉetʉyai instilled an insane hatred for the Nʉmʉ in the wretched creatures. He made them stronger, faster and more vicious than any other predator. Then, when his wicked deed was done, he sent them to breed and roam the land with one senseless goal: devouring the Nʉmʉ and every other human on the planet.

Because of the ravenous hordes of morlocks that plagued the plains, the duty of the scouts was of an utmost importance: the very life of dozens of persons depended on them. If they spotted a horde, they warned the tribe and then some braves rode out to lead the beasts on a false trail while the others packed the camp and fled. The braves then tried to kill the pʉetʉyai if they could do so without danger for their lives, but this was seldom the case, their enemy was usually far too numerous. The Nʉmʉ were courageous warriors and hunters, but they were not foolish.

Yahnee addressed a prayer to the spirits, asking them for good luck in his task. Fortunately, the Great Spirit had heard the tribes' songs and prayers and had bestowed wondrous Gifts to the Nʉmʉ. Young Yahneequena had inherited the pride of his lineage, the Gift his tribe was named after: the Eyes of the Eagle. Thanks to the faint light of Epimʉa and Ebimʉa, the red and blue moons of Yaghan, he could see as well at night as in broad daylight. More importantly, he could see amazingly far away, many many times the range of a normal person. This gift was a true treasure for his band's survival : it enabled him to detect a pʉetʉyai horde long before the monsters saw him. That's why he had dared to go alone: he felt that thanks to his Gift, he had not jeopardized the security of his people. He was a bit reckless but not foolish.

Despite the risk he had taken and the seriousness of his responsibilities, that night Yahneequena was riding with joy in his heart. He was young and proud, he was happy to be alive, happy to breathe the delicious and pure air of the plains. More than anything, he was happy to share that pleasure with his horse Wakaree. The name was a joke: Wakaree was one of the finest stallions of the band but Yahnee enjoyed teasing him and thus had named him "turtle". Wakaree was way more than a horse: some of the steeds of the tribes were also Gifted and among them Wakaree was a true wonder : he was able to communicate with humans by telepathically sending them the pictures he formed in his horse's mind's eye. He had a simple language which consisted of a few hundred picture-words but that was enough. It made him and Yahnee something more than mount and rider: they were as close as brothers.

"Happy, Wakaree?" said Yahnee. "It's a great night, isn't it? Watch your step, my friend, and let's hope we don't get to see any pʉetʉyai, right?"
"Happy. Good. Wind. Happy. Run. Brother Yahnee. Happy." said the horse, and Yahnee laughed. The picture for "happy" was actually Wakaree running with Yahnee on his back and the picture for "good" was him eating from a bucket of apples, a rare treat. It was a good night indeed.

A palomino mare and her foal, by Kvetina-Marie - flickr.com under CC2

Chapter 3


They were about three hours away from camp when Yahnee first noticed flickering lights close to the horizon, at the very limit of his vision range, which meant dozens and dozens of miles away.

"Wakaree, I see strange lights in the distance. Let's canter in that direction. Don't tire yourself, I want you to stay fresh, but I need to get a closer look. Canter, Wakaree."
"Canter. Good. Run. Happy. Good. Run. Happy." replied the horse.
"That's right" said Yahnee with a smile. He tightened his grip on his lance, its reassuring weight bringing courage to his heart as Wakaree sprang up and took speed.

The horse loved to gallop so much, it was always a great joy for Yahnee to let him loose. But the usually carefree warrior was worried. Something did not feel right and suddenly he wished he had not gone alone. Those lights could have been anything: a yet unknown species of animal (very unlikely, but it still happened from time to time), renegades from the fortified cities (unlikely, most did not survive long), or just friends from another tribe (but they would never let themselves be so visible from afar)… Or it could be a new breed of morlocks with unknown abilities. That happened all the time, in every encounter there was a deadly surprise. If that was the case, Yahnee had to react fast and to report the information as quickly as possible so as to give his tribe enough time to leave camp. Taken by surprise, they could always just jump on their horses and flee, but they would loose many supplies that were crucial for their survival this coming winter. He started to worry. Was he loosing time? Or was he just overly cautious? What would Kanaretah do? Suddenly he wished he had her experience.

After what felt like hours, he got close enough to finally discern what was the source of the lights. It was a Wind Train, a long iron horse with a steam engine but that usually harnessed the power of the plains' formidable winds with its masts and sails. It wasn't the average wind train however. Instead of the stocky, armored box of metal that looked like a fortress on wheels he was used to seeing, that train was sleek, slender and elegant. Yet it also looked like a mighty vessel that could take on anything the plains threw at it. In fact, he golden letters on the engine left no doubt, it was the "Veronica", the new vessel of Gond's fleet. Yahnee could not read of course, but the train looked so modern that it only could have been it. It was already famous among the tribes that often traded with the capital of the plains, they had had the opportunity to see its training maneuvers all along the last revolution.

What a relief! Far from being a danger, the presence of this unique vessel and its crew of elite warriors meant that for once the morlocks were not the predators but the preys. Yahnee closed his eyes and again he addressed a quick prayer to his totem spirit, thanking it for this good omen. He gave one last good look at the Veronica, trying to commit this glorious sight to his memory so that he could talk, or rather brag about it around the camp fire. Then he gently pressed on Wakaree's flanks with his knees, asking him to turn around so as to come back on their original trail. After his long detour, another scouting party was probably catching up by now: there was always four or five of them circling around the campsite at all times, so he had to hurry.

Suddenly his vision got blurry and his ears started to ring. He felt dizzy, for an instant his eyes could not focus, he could not think clearly and he felt a strange metallic taste in his mouth. He only saw flares of light and a cloud of… dust, for a lack of a better word. Soon, he regained his vision and could not help but scream in horror.

The Veronica was suddenly surrounded by a swarm of morlocks, hundreds, thousands of them.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Some ideas behind the conception of Yaghan

I think it is pretty cool to have some insight behind the decisions of an artist (whoo, big word, especially when you self-apply it ahah). So I wanted to talk about some of the " whys" of Yaghan's design decisions.

The first important thing is that the story is set in our world in a not too distant future (I will explain why later). It has several consequences. I will tackle only 2 of them today since I also need to get on writing ;).

A little note: knowing all this can spoil the experience of discovering the world. If you know "the special effects", you'll be more likely to spot them. Let me know in the comments if you'd rather not read these kind of posts or if it's not a problem and I should keep them coming.

Wildlife

 In fantasy novels set on another planet like Game of Thrones or LOTR, a tree is a tree, oak is oak, pine is pine, and bunny rabbits are bunny rabbits. The only deviations are the occasional dragon or undead thingies. In other words, the wildlife is 99% the same as what we know, with 1% being strange mythical stuff.

Not so on Yaghan. It is a completely different world with it's own very particular biosphere. Think Pandora (from Avatar), with more variations in terms of biomes (there are deserts, mountains, jungles, plains... not just one über forest). 

I have made the choice that life on Earth and Yaghan is totally compatible and that species can even mate with each other. Otherwise I thought it would get really contrived and would slow the story down if people had to only eat species imported from earth and so on... Constraints can lead to better stories, up to a point when it's just too complicated to deal with. 

Unlikely as it seems, there is some ways to defend that: life has been refined for million of years on Earth and is super optimized (Darwin, etc), and we can easily imagine that with similar conditions (Yaghan is very similar to Earth in size, shape, composition, etc), the same result would appear elsewhere. Also note that it is very likely that there is millions of planets just like ours in our galaxy alone, and that's scientists talking, not me, so this assumption is not much of a stretch.

However the problem of this new ecosystem is that I have to design every species from the grounds up: a tree is not a tree: it is something that looks like a tree but that is different. An herbivore is not an herbivore, but something else : my bisons are gigantic creatures that turn carnivorous if they can't find enough food (I have also made the decision that Yaghan's wildlife is very dangerous). I say they are similar to bisons because they are herbivores (...), are brown, have horns, and are big, but it pretty much ends here.

It has a cool consequence and a complex one.

A benefit is that I think it adds a lot to the flavor of the world. One of my goals is to make you travel to an exotic place. Yaghan is wild, savage and beautiful and I hope I'll be able to really instill that feeling of awe, and all those strange animals can really help with that.

I am aware I should not overdo it: readers still have to have reference points otherwise they can't imagine what you describe. It's one of the reasons I compare those new animals to earth's species, and conveniently, Yaghan's inhabitants still have some archives of Earth, so they have a rough idea of our wildlife so that's covered.

Also, the colonists brought a lot of things with them: horses, dogs, cats, farm animals, some wild animals (like petrels, don't ask me why), farm plants for obvious reasons, useful tree essences (mainly oak, pine and bamboo)... So Yaghan is a blend of the similar and the strange.

The drawback is, I'm constantly scratching my head over the design of new animals. Actually, the biggest problem for me is not to design them, I have lots of ideas for that, thank you very much, but I have trouble naming them. Which leads me to the second part of this post.

Language

The inhabitants of Yaghan actually speak languages from Earth since they are descended from Earth colonists. It has several consequences.

 I don't have to design a language (which sounds fun, but hard), so everything goes faster. One point for me.

On the other hand, I have to think about what are the likely languages to have survived after centuries and a limited set of colonists. Somewhat sadly, I tend to think English, the lingua franca for space missions, is probably the most widely spoken language (I say sadly because I love languages and I think variety is important). Of course, it also has a benefit: when English is not the spoken language, there should be a reason, and it means there is a story there, which is great for me.

One of the problems I have is naming. I can't call a big feline-like creature a "rakashan", however cool it sounds, because this word doesn't exist and has no basis, no root. People would not make up names when naming new species, they would name them using their own words to form new names. So basically all the fantasy blabber that sounds vaguely elvish is out. Believe me, it makes things harder, because now every name has to make sense in addition to being cool sounding and evocative.

One last cool consequence of choosing English as the main language of Yaghan is a bit unexpected. Since I'm french and I don't write in my own language, I sometimes make mistakes on how I structure my sentences. Especially when I go fast, I sometimes make the very common mistake of translating a sentence word for word (I actually don't translate in my head per se, but you see what I mean). So the sentence has a french structure with english words.

Oh, it's understandable, but it's certainly not good English. The funny consequence, that has been pointed out by my friend Sean (Salut mec!) and several other persons after him, is that it gives the impression that the language has evolved over time. It adds to the exotic feeling in a way. So now, I really hesitate when correcting my texts :). Some mistakes are so bad that it's a no brainer, they need to be fixed, but some, I really don't know... Actually, your opinion is very welcome.

Ok, that's it for now, see you tomorrow for the next chapter of the Law of the Plains, or tonight, if enough of you ask bout it :). (please, beg... ahem!)

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Law of the Plains: Prologue and Chapter 1.


Technical note: I don't know how to create footnotes, so I left them in italics next to the text. Hopefully I will find a better way next time.
Also, you will encouter the letter ʉ. It is pronounced like "a" in about, or like "euh" in french, but it is almost silent.


All who have died are equal.
Unknown Nʉmʉ Chief

Prologue


This story is the story of a crisis.

Every crisis starts in the same way. It's a normal, routine day.  People are busy doing whatever they usually do in their very normal lives... And suddenly something out of the ordinary happens. Something that, in the blink of an eye,  changes their destinies forever.

A sad fact is that most of the time, this little something would be of little significance if only it had been given the attention it deserved. Worse, most of the time its effects are compounded by a chain of mistakes that people make out of ignorance or worse, out of carelessness. And on Yaghan, a planet where humans live in fortified cities and monsters roam the land, ignorance or carelessness are often the mothers of tragedy.

Chapter I


It was a nice and warn night of early autumn, somewhere in the vast plains that composed much of the biggest continent of Yaghan. Yahneequena [Happy Eagle] was sleeping soundly, wrapped in the heavy furs of a young Kʉtsʉtoya, not far from one of the small fire pits dug by his tribe, the Quenashano [War Eagles]. He was blissfully snoring and dreaming of all the strange stories their shaman Tabbaquena [Sun Eagle] told them to try and educate them about their past.

A long time ago, more than several hundred revolutions had said Tabbaquena, the last members of the Nʉmʉ had decided to emigrate to Yaghan. They had hoped that this virgin planet, the first habitable one discovered by Earth's inhabitants, would enable them to live a life closer to their ancestral ways. With that objective in mind, they had settled in the Great Plains, a huge continent  that was somewhat similar to where they had lived on Earth. Much to everybody else's surprise, they had striven there, thanks to the providential discovery of the Kʉtsʉtoya, a huge animal at least twice as high and large than a horse. Tabbaquena said that they looked like huge carnivorous bisons, but Yahnee had never been to Gond so he had no idea what those were. The towering beasts were herbivores but like most creatures on Yaghan, they could turn carnivorous when food was scarce. With a thick hide and a thicker fur, it was a dangerous animal to hunt, but it provided everything the tribes needed, from food to clothes to weapons.

When the First War against the morlocks had brought humanity to the brink of extinction, the Nʉmʉ were the only ones who had a modicum of knowledge on how to survive in the wild without the constant help of machines (Tabbaquena had said machines were things like the Wind Trains of Gond). It had forced them to fully embrace the ancient way of life of the tribes. As a result, during the dark days that had followed the war, the Nʉmʉ had been instrumental in defending the fledgling communities of survivors. They had also been the only ones courageous enough to try to live in the open instead of burrowing themselves in impregnable fortified cities.  +

All those legends seemed really strange and wonderful to the young warrior, especially those talking about this another planet somewhere in the sky from which his ancestors supposedly had come. He sometimes dreamed that he was riding among the stars with his horse Wakaree [Turtle], discovering new hunting grounds free of insane monsters.

He was deep in such a dream when his mother put her cold hands on his cheeks, waking him. She was a strong woman and still quite young, but her skin was prematurely aged by the scorching rays of the twin suns that warmed the planet. He kissed her parched hands then said sleepily: "Hello mother. Thanks for waking me. How are you?"
"Tsaata, tsaata [I'm doing fine], son", she said in a soft voice, so as to not wake the other members of the band. "It's time for you to take your shift."
"Haa Haa [Oui]. Thanks mother" he whispered. "It's a nice night to ride!" he added happily.
"It is indeed", she said. "Yahnee, Pahiitʉ-Saari [Three Dogs] is sick. Ask somebody else to come with you."
He looked surprised. She had been fine at noon when they had eaten together.
"Her stomach hurts. Tabbaquena gave her herbs, she vomited, with some rest, she'll be fine. Don't worry. Find somebody else."
"Haa, Haa. I understand. I will. Don't worry mother. I'll be careful."

While he extracted himself out of his makeshift sleeping bag, she opened a woven wicker basket and took a packet wrapped in the long red leaves of the ekapita plant. He knew that it was food for his trip, most likely a small morsel of bread, berries and some dried kʉtsʉtoya jerky. She gave it to him with a leather water pouch and watched him prepare.The Nʉmʉ believed that it was important to look good when going to war because if you died you met the Great Spirit. Scouting the plains was a very dangerous task so Yahnee-quena always took great care when he dressed himself. He donned fringed buckskin trousers and a nice and light leather shirt decorated with ivory bone pearls. He then wrapped both his braids in soft furs.

"The spirits be with you, son." she said simply when he was finished. "Go find somebody to accompany you".
"Thanks Mother. I will." he said. "Can you mark a stone for me?".
 She acquiesced, then watched him walk towards the other side of camp where his friend Kʉtsʉteka [Bison eater] laid. Then she took her knife and carved a sign into the soft white stone next to the main fire pit. That way, everybody would know that the scouts had left camp for that shift. She then headed back to Yahneequenah's furs and slid in them, taking advantage of the remaining heat.

Little did she know that her son had no intention of respecting the Law of the Plains.

(see you in 3 days for the next par in the adventures of Yahnee and his horse Wakaree!)

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Introduction to "The Law of the plains"

I wanted to write a few words about the piece I'm going to present over the next weeks.

The characters of my novel are elite warriors and exceptional even among their peers (I like when characters are awesome, kind of like David Gemmell's heroes). Think Navy Seals, think Jason Bourne, these kind of guys and gals. The problem is, one of my "test" readers commented on the fact that they killed morlocks too easily, as if they were like Tolkien's orcs, nothing more than canon fodder.

That bothered me, because it was clear to me that my heroes were able to do so only because they are the best at what they do (killing morlocks). Moreover, they still get hurt in the process, they are not stupid all-powerful characters like Superman (there you go, I alienated all Superman fans... Just kidding guys!). 

But I agreed:  there was no sense of fear, the morlocks were not quite monstrous enough, they were not the implacable evil that choked humanity that I had envisioned.

So I decided to write a short novella about a group of people that actually live outside the walls of a fortified city. As you can imagine, if everybody else lives behind walls because they fear the monsters, these guys must be pretty badass! Yes they are, that's for sure, but they also have a lifestyle that makes this possible, one that humanity as a whole doesn't want to embrace.  So it's not just because they are über fighters that they survive, as you will see. 

I hope that with this novella I can convey better why morlocks are so frightening and why they control the planet. I also wanted to write more about the vast expanses of the Great Plains of Yaghan, to try to get out of the cities a bit and I really liked the trip: for me it was like going on (a dangerous) vacation, if you will. 

Also, I ended up really loving my characters, and I hope you will too. 

First episode: tomorrow and then every 3 days. Stay tuned!

Welcome to my new project

Some of you might know me from reading my french blog Carnets de Seattle, and some of you, a lot of you I hope ;) do not know me and discover this blog for the first time. 

What is this about?

Well it's very simple: I'm writing a science-fiction/fantasy novel set in a world that I call Yaghan. It's about humans being confined to fortified cities on a strange planet, because mutating-magical-zombies-on-crack called morlocks roam the land and drove humanity to the brink of extinction centuries ago. Side note, the similarity with "Attack on Titan" is very superficial: I was actually quite bummed out when I discovered this (awesome) show after I started writing because I thought I had a unique idea. 

I'm making progress, so far I've written about 50k words (an average novel is about 80k) and I've also written about 50k words of notes and snippets of text that describe the world.  But there is a very strange thing you need to know about my writing process: I only know something about my world when I write about it. Oh, sure, I can tell you about this and that, but if I want to explore the complex mechanisms behind this strange planet, I have to write about it. Just thinking is not enough.

Because of that, one day, to flesh out my world, I decided to write a novella with a different group of characters, just to get a different perspective on my world and story. I enjoyed my new cast of characters so much that before I knew it, I had completed a 15k words piece (about 50 pages).

I first wanted to try and self-publish this novella, maybe on Amazon, to see what response I would get, but a friend convinced me that it would be more fun and productive to publish it as a serial on a blog. I agreed and after a lot of discussions, we came to the conclusion that not only could I publish my novella, but I could also write about the process of writing or publish the small texts that I wrote as a reference to myself, and make a whole companion site to what will be, hopefully, my first novel.

So there you go: over the newt few weeks, I am going to publish a chapter of my novella every 3 days. Then, we'll see. Hopefully I will have more material by then.

Stay tuned!