I'd like to say that I've taken the last month off, but to be completely honest with you, I had three weddings, I'm still moving into my new house, and I just spent the last week locked in a cabin writing.
But hey! On the bright side, Blackflame is doing disturbingly well.
It has sold faster than any of my other books, and in fact its success has helped my other books too; Soulsmith earned nine times more this month than it did last month.
I bow to you in thanks!
More soon, when hopefully I get some breathing room. In the meantime, I'll leave you with these random out-of-context lines from Skysworn:
The Lord of Specters opened its beak once more, and a voice issued forth like a distant chorus singing a dirge. “Tell us the name of your enemy,” the raven said.
In the Blackflame Empire, when you wanted an Underlord dead, you had precious few options.
The Judges of the Abidan Court
(The Reaper and the Creator)
Ozriel, the Reaper
When a world lives too long and drifts from the Way, only one person can terminate the Iteration without scattering corrupted fragments that threaten other worlds.
For most of the history of the Abidan, there was no Ozriel. They eliminated worlds the old-fashioned way, and most of their manpower was spent defending Iterations from chaos-corrupted fragments. Ozriel reduced the threat of corruption to such a degree that the Abidan could spread their manpower to an unprecedented degree. Where once it took hundreds of Abidan to protect and maintain a single Iteration, now that same team could supervise an entire Sector of ten or more worlds.
However, the entire system of the current Abidan now hinges on one man.
Where most Judges are rule-abiding and structured by nature, Ozriel is not so rigid. He often challenges Abidan laws and traditions, trying to change and improve the policies of their organization. He might have succeeded by now if he were willing to relinquish control and cooperate with others. But, traditionally, he has never been much of a team player. When others don't agree with him, he tends to do exactly what he wants anyway.
As the one individual in existence with a world-erasing superweapon, he's used to getting his way.
And now he's missing.
Adriel, the Creator
The first seven Judges inherited their power and titles. Only Ozriel and Adriel are the exceptions: Ozriel because there has never been a Reaper before him, and Adriel because there has never been a Creator since.
Adriel is a myth to the modern Abidan. Some of their oldest records posit his existence, but he vanished before the Eledari Pact was signed. The strongest pieces of evidence for his existence are indirect references left behind by the first Abidan Court.
The Judges can defend, maintain, and alter Iterations. They can combine fragments into new worlds.
But only one person could, according to legend, design and create Iterations out of whole cloth: Adriel. He created new worlds, introducing fresh pieces into the cycle of existence.
His weapon, the Hammer of Adriel, is sometimes used by the Abidan as a symbol of creation.
As I've done once before, I'd like to share with you some early thoughts from those who read Blackflame when it was still messy and wailing.
Feast your eyes on the raw, almost fanatic enthusiasm of these formerly unbiased critics as they discover new vistas of literary wonder on every page:
"Will Wight is my favorite author!"
"Of all the books I've ever read, this was the most recent."
(Author of The Crimson Queen)
"Wait, this isn't Kings and Killers?"
"My favorite part was when Lindon learned the Rasengan and then met Dende."
(Author of Sufficiently Advanced Magic)
"Where's book four, Will?"
"Blackflame is the one book you should read this year. The only book. Just read Blackflame over and over, and buy copies for your friends until they beg you to stop."
(Author of Some Stuff and also Some Other Stuff)
"My weight is healthy for someone my age, and I'm very comfortable in my own skin."
I'm locking it in now: Blackflame is going up on Amazon one week from today, on May 1st.
Enough readers have confirmed that Blackflame is ready for release (with only minor tweaks) that I know I can finally stop making big changes. I'm tuning it this week, polishing it up, and sending it out the door.
After that, we have a lot more to talk about, but let's ship this book out first!
If I had been updating you on my Blackflame progress for the last six weeks, it would have sounded like this:
"I've had to make some more changes than I thought, but I'll be done this week for sure."
Rinse and repeat, x6.
This book took me a lot more work than usual, but some books are just harder than others. Part I of Blackflame has a lot of setup, Part II has a lot of training, and Part III is essentially one long scene cutting between like six different fights.
Kind of a weird structure for me, but I just kept playing with it until I was happy with it.
And now I am! Woohoo! Release very soon, unless I see something very wrong with it that I've somehow overlooked until now and requires extensive rewrites, in which case it'll release June 1st.
Either way, ALMOST THERE!
P.S. Abidan Part V is coming next, I've just been swamped with Blackflame. I got up at 4 this morning, and I went to bed at 4 the night before, so I don't even know what a sleep schedule is. ONLY BLACKFLAME.
The Seven Judges of the Abidan Court
(The Wolf, the Phoenix, and the Fox)
Razael, the Wolf
The Way protects, but it also strengthens. The Wolves are the Abidan combat division, and each of them commands formidable destructive potential. While most other divisions are filled up by Abidan from Sanctum and the other core worlds--and thus essentially born into the Abidan--the Wolves pride themselves on taking "wild" recruits.
Most Wolves were renowned warriors in their original worlds, and they carry those powers with them into battle.
As Gadrael is the Court's shield, Razael is their sword. She is the unstoppable force, the heavy artillery unleashed against the greatest of the Abidan's enemies.
Before the rise of Ozriel, it fell to the office of Razael to destroy worlds as completely as possible. Razael therefore considers herself something of a rival to the Reaper.
Ozriel does not return the sentiment.
Suriel, the Phoenix
The power of the Phoenix is the power of restoration. An Abidan of the Phoenix Division can use the Way to return order to a system, restoring it to prime condition. Phoenixes are used as mechanics and engineers as often as healers, and are prized on any battlefield.
Though skilled Phoenix Abidan are rare, and their division small, they are also very durable. A Phoenix is said to be the second-most difficult of the Abidan to destroy (after a Titan), since powerful Phoenixes can regenerate even from total destruction.
The Phoenix herself, Suriel, is the only entity capable of restoring the condition of an entire Iteration at once. This can cause irregularities for both the Spiders and the Hounds, so she is required to notify Sector Control prior to temporal reversion.
Ozriel is well-known as the most powerful Judge since the first generation of the Abidan Court, and possibly of all time. However, he has no ability as a Phoenix. He has made it a point to befriend both the previous Suriel and this one, holding their talents in high esteem.
Zakariel, the Fox
The Way governs space, separating universe from universe, but its branches reach into every Iteration. Foxes use these branches like tunnels, slipping through the Way to reach their destinations without the headache of physical distance.
Virtually every Abidan has some ability as a Fox--at least the minimum spatial control required to enter and leave an Iteration. But only the best and fastest join the Fox Division: the heralds, scouts, and couriers of the Abidan.
Each Zakariel has always been fickle and unpredictable, perhaps as a side effect of the ability to travel anywhere at any time. This generation's Zakariel likes to meddle, as a godlike child with her toys. She tests the bounds of the Eledari Pact with her actions, and the Foxes beneath her have grown unruly and undisciplined. She has been chastised before the Court of Seven many times, but her personal power and ability have kept her from being pressured out of her mantle.
She is also an insatiable collector of anything she finds intriguing. Legendary weapons and rare creatures are displayed in her collection side by side with adorable stuffed animals and interesting leaves.
At last, Suriel makes her appearance! Hi, Suriel!
Next Time: Ozriel, the Reaper
...and Adriel, the Creator.
(Remember, this isn't in the books yet, so I could change my mind on a whim! Don't hold me to this too closely!)
The Seven Judges of the Abidan Court
(The Ghost and the Spider)
Darandiel, the Ghost
Just as the other Judges supervise the life and health of a world, someone must oversee the process of universal death and rebirth. The Ghosts watch over the broken fragments of worlds, guiding the development of new Iterations and protecting them from malign influence during the vulnerable cycle of destruction and creation.
As Hounds tap into the power of Fate and Titans into the power of protection, Ghosts manipulate the force that binds existence to the Way: conscious will. This is an esoteric power that, depending on the situation, can be either overwhelmingly powerful or totally useless.
Darandiel is rarely seen in Sanctum, the headquarters of the Abidan. She and her Ghosts spend most of their time beyond the Iterations, shepherding the birth of new worlds and defending old ones from the chaos of the void.
Telariel, the Spider
The Spiders essentially function as the Abidan intelligence network. They spread their awareness through the Way, sensing deviation and disorder all throughout existence. Spiders maintain the system of Sector Control, through which Iterations are divided into sectors in order to make them easier to manage.
Inter-universal communication between Abidan is also handled by the Spiders, so they have a reputation as the busiest Division. However, they are also known as the weakest in combat, so they are usually left to roles in support and management.
A Spider may be hard-working, but the Spider is lazy, disreputable, and prone to leaning on the perks of his position. Telariel has long ago reduced his personal responsibility to only handling communication between Judges, which rarely requires his personal attention.
When Ozriel vanished, Telariel cast his laziness aside and bent his full attention to the search. He was soon forced to admit defeat. Ozriel took steps to hide himself from the detection of the Way, and the Spider's skill is nothing next to the Reaper's.
(After receiving the blow to his pride, Telariel retreated back into seclusion. To sulk.)
I had all of the information for the Judges long before I began writing Cradle, but it was loose and disorganized. I thought these posts would be as simple as copying and pasting information I already had, but uh...they weren't.
Anyway, I had all these posts about the Judges written before I put up the first post. Took me about 3-4 hours total, which doesn't sound too bad until you realize that I thought it would take me twenty minutes.
I have no ability to accurately estimate how long a task will take me. You should know that about me by now.
Next Time: the Wolf and the Phoenix...and also the Fox.
She snuck in there somehow.
(Reminder: As with all information I share about the future, everything here is subject to change.)
"Always in motion, is the future."
The Seven Judges of the Abidan Court
(The Hound and the Titan)
Makiel, the Hound
The story of each universe is written in Fate.
Fate governs the natural lifespan of each Iteration. It isn't a detailed plan that determines every action of each person, but rather a force like gravity that pushes a world toward a healthy life ending in that Iteration's natural death.
Since humans tie the universe to the Way, people figure prominently in Fate. One individual life is unlikely to affect the destiny of an entire Iteration, but their actions might be a necessary step toward a world's continued existence. Or its end.
Makiel and the Hound Division of the Abidan supervise Fate. They tap into the Way to read the past and the future, and to deal with any deviations that may jeopardize one or more worlds.
Makiel is something of a leader among the seven Judges, though the Eledari Pact technically gives him no authority over his peers. This is a tradition continued from the original Makiel, who first realized the need for such a pact and organized its creation.
He is rigid and inflexible, utterly dedicated to the enforcement of the rules that protect existence. This mindset has led him to clash with Ozriel, who tends to value his own will over externally imposed guidelines. He has tried many times to recover the Scythe and Mantle of Ozriel in order to pass the title to a different, more worthy bearer, but the Reaper has eluded or defeated him at every turn.
Gadrael, the Titan
The Way is fundamentally a force of protection, a barrier against chaos and destruction. Gadrael is the embodiment of that concept.
Titan Abidan are the defenders of the Abidan worlds, raising shields and barriers against creatures of chaos and against the enemies of the Court. Whenever the Abidan need a world quarantined, a weapon sealed, a prison reinforced, or an attack turned aside, they call on the Titans.
This generation's Gadrael was rescued from a dying world, then raised as a son by Makiel. His loyalty to the Hound is total.
He once had a reputation as the weakest Judge, due to his lack of skill in any discipline but his own. Other Judges typically have expertise in more than one area; Suriel, for instance, is an accomplished Fox (who excel at instant travel) and an able Spider (who detect deviations in chaos). Makiel could have inherited the post of Razael the Wolf instead, had he desired to do so, and Ozriel was skilled enough to fulfill the duties of any Judge but Suriel.
Gadrael cannot read Fate, he can barely cross through the Way, and his combat power is lower than many ordinary Abidan.
But his barriers are flawless.
Gadrael is is the sturdiest protector in existence, a one-man fortress, an immovable object, an impenetrable wall. Worlds under Gadrael's protection can rest easy, but there are thousands of Iterations under the purview of the Judges.
And the Titans cannot be everywhere at once.
I really wanted to say more about Makiel, but...well, I don't want to spoil too much.
Next Time: The Ghost and the Spider
(Fun Fact: The original title for Unsouled was The Fox and the Phoenix.)
(NOTE: Like any information about the future, this is subject to change. I created this system for a different story before writing Unsouled, so if I decide I need to alter how the Abidan work in order to suit the story, I will. Nothing is etched in stone.)
(NOTE II: Return of NOTE - Credit for the idea behind this post goes to Reddan, from the comments! Great idea, Reddan! The Judges are coming soon!)
The Way and the Worlds
Iteration: Any universe that the Abidan recognize as capable of sustaining human existence and living out a complete life-cycle.
Every Iteration has a destined progression. A world is born, it lives out its existence, and then it quietly dies, breaking into fragments. These fragments float through the void, crashing and combining randomly until they form into a new universe.
They are called "Iterations" because the thousands of universes currently in existence are thought to be different versions of the same original world or worlds, spun out in different combinations again and again for eternity. Even the Abidan Judges do not know when this cycle began.
On its own, an Iteration should exist for billions of years, except for a certain underlying requirement: each Iteration is anchored to the Way by sentient consciousness. As long as humans* are around, the world is tethered to the natural law and order of the Way. The fewer humans there are, the looser that connection becomes.
When humanity dies, the world dissolves.
The Way: The source of order, the Way is a force that spans all of existence. Its presence protects against the destructive and corruptive influence of chaos, and its nature sustains reality.
An Iteration dying is part of the Way. Death is meant to be the end; this is part of the cosmic order. Only when an Iteration lives too long does it becomes a danger.
When a world's population drops so low that it weakens the influence of the Way, but not so low that the Iteration breaks into fragments, that is when corruption sets in. Chaos seeps into the world, infecting it, subverting the laws that govern reality.
At this point, the Abidan can destroy the remaining population, thus removing the Iteration's last hold on existence. But now the world will break into fragments, and those fragments are tinged with chaos. They might crash into other Iterations, infecting them, or combine to create worlds that are corrupted from the very beginning.
There is only one being capable of erasing a universe from existence entirely, without breaking it down into fragments.
And he's missing.
The Eledari Pact: An ancient agreement between the original Court of Seven that both increases and restricts the powers of the Abidan.
Agreements and restrictions are inherently ordered, so this pact is the tool that allows the Abidan to control the power of the Way as they do. There are many rules in the Eledari Pact, but the most relevant one is this: the Abidan cannot use their powers to prevent the natural progression of an Iteration.
They cannot stop a global war from claiming billions of lives and destroying a planet, unless that war was started by outside forces or by a significant subversion of Fate. Abidan only descend to correct a deviation, though they're granted a certain freedom of action in doing so. This law exists both to preserve the natural balance of existence and to prevent the Abidan from settling down in lesser worlds and ruling like gods.
*(The Abidan definition of "human" is pretty loose, but never too far removed from the humanity we know. When a new Iteration forms that may be able to support life, the Abidan select a new population of human pioneers and send them to inhabit a suitable planet.)
Today, some basic terminology to help you understand the cosmos the Abidan are dealing with.
Tomorrow, the world!
Next time: the Hound and the Titan
"Bracing her foot on the body, Mercy pulled her arrow free."
A generous helping.
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