I am proud to count myself among the honorable Guild of Witnesses, the final entry on this written tour of Imperial history. Witnesses are the official record-keepers of the Empire, having chronicled the entirety of the Empire’s history since our inception. We also observe momentous events, record battles, produce educational reading materials for the general public, and notarize official documents.
As Sadesthenes once said, “The Witnesses are the grease that allow the wheels of Empire to turn.”
Generally speaking, Witnesses travel in pairs:
As a Chronicler, I am a Reader with the ability to store my memories inside a special alchemically created candle. I burn the candle while I write, and as the memories flow out, I can record my thoughts without any margin of error even years after the events I have witnessed.
Always, I am accompanied by my Silent One, a trained warrior and my bodyguard. Silent Ones bind their mouths to symbolize their inability to betray secret or sensitive events, but contrary to popular belief, we do not remove their tongues. We’re not barbarians. They are capable of speech, they are simply discouraged from doing so in the presence of outsiders.
Guild Head: The Heads of my own Guild are the twin sisters Azea and Calazan Farstrider, natives of exotic Izyria. Though they are young, having risen to prominence after the Emperor’s untimely demise, I have never met anyone so dedicated to accuracy and neutrality. Azea works as a Chronicler, and Calazan as her attendant Silent One, though I can personally confirm that either sister can perform either role. Azea is a remarkable fighter in her own right, and Calazan a skilled Reader and clerk.
Symbol: the Quill and Candle
When I call the Navigators a Guild, I use the term loosely.
Navigators are the only sailors who can cross the deadly, shifting ocean at the heart of our Empire: the Aion Sea. We therefore rely on them for communication, trade, exploration, and transport between the eastern continent of Aurelia and the western continent, Izyria.
It’s too bad that they’re the most shifty and unreliable collection of pirates, confidence artists, mercenaries, and outright criminals the Empire has ever seen.
No one knows how they cross the Aion, with its hundreds of deadly Kameira, its disappearing islands, its unpredictable weather, and its host of lurking Elders, but anyone else who sails far enough out into the ocean either vanishes or returns insane.
The best way to recognize a real Navigator from a faker is to ask to see their Guild license, which is unmistakable and cannot be reproduced. Unfortunately, that only tells you which sailor is truly able to cross the Aion: not whether he can be trusted.
Guild Head: Captain Cheska Bennett is one of the few reliable Navigators left in this world. She owns and commands The Eternal, a most striking ship with billowing red sails and a wake that trails flame. She commands truly shocking prices for her services, but if you hire her, you can be certain that every splinter of your cargo will remain secure between one continent and the other.
Symbol: the Navigator’s Wheel (a ship’s wheel with a single eye at the center)
Magisters are the most accomplished and educated Readers in the world. You probably grew up with a local Reader, who invested your knives and cleansed your graveyard of harmful intent. Most small-town Readers are powerful and possibly even quite skilled.
But they aren’t Magisters.
A Magister is a Reader who has received an extensive education inside the Vey Illai, an extensive forest in the Aurelian heartland, inside what was once the original Imperial Academy. They can use their intent with a degree of focus, subtlety, and precision that an ordinary Reader could barely comprehend.
Magisters are in charge of regulating Readers and the use of human intent, in much the same way that a father is in charge of preventing his children from misbehaving.
It’s impossible for all Readers to study at the Vey Illai and become Magisters, because there are simply too many people with a talent for Reading. And of course everyone invests their intent into objects, to one degree or another.
But the best and most powerful are called Magisters.
Guild Head: Professor Mekendi Maxeus, one of the most distinguished researchers at the Aurelian National Academy, retired from his lecture tour to the “relaxing” position as head of one of the largest Imperial Guilds. He isn’t seen outside much these days, having received several disfiguring facial scars in the Inheritance Conflict five years ago, but he still lends his overwhelming power of intent to the construction of new public monuments in the Capital. He carries a black staff, and I have personally witnessed him use it to blast a collapsed building off a pair of trapped children’[. I have met few heroes in my career, but this man is among them.
Symbol: the Open Book
The Luminian Order:
Ah, the Luminians. A more versatile Guild you won’t find anywhere: they’re responsible for building cathedrals, policing Imperial roads, hunting down Elders, and generally acting heroic.
Luminian Knights, the martial arm of the Order, march around in their powerfully invested steel armor, fighting deadly monsters chest-to-chest. Their swords are bound with light so that they reflect the sun even in the dead of night, burning through creatures of darkness.
The trademark representatives of the Luminian Order are Pilgrims, humble wanderers in simple robes. They are each Readers—some of them Soulbound—charged to remove harmful intent and the maddening influence of the Elders.
The Luminian Order and the Blackwatch have each held a knife to the other’s back for hundreds of years, arguing over the best way to protect the populace, to prevent the rise of the Great Elders, and to keep the Empire whole. Perhaps if one of them would learn to compromise, we would all feel safer after midnight.
Guild Head: Father Jameson Allbright is an old man, but his vigilance has never dimmed in the fight against darkness. He is one of the oldest Soulbound on record, wielding his shining Vessel to bring the purifying light to Elder worshipers and malicious Readers alike.
Symbol: the White Sun (usually on a red banner)
Kanatalia, the Guild of Alchemists:
As I write this guide, I sip a glass of enhanced wine that slowly shifts flavor from cherry to apple to lemon. A cart rumbles by my house, with a hawker loudly announcing his remedies for sale. A quicklamp provides my light, glowing a steady blue, never smoking or flickering like a candle.
Truly, one cannot escape the advances of alchemy in our modern society.
Though alchemists have existed since long before the Empire, Kanatalia is one of the more recent additions to the Ten Guilds. It was the first organization to unify the previously contentious brotherhood of alchemists, allowing them to collectively achieve what they never could separately.
Matches, quicklamps, potions, invested alloys, healing salves, enhanced soldiers, vaccines…practically every scientific advance in the past century, including the advance of science itself, can be traced back to Kanatalia’s door.
Just don’t ask too many questions. A true Kanatalian alchemist can be very protective of his secrets, and you might find yourself a drooling vegetable if you get on the wrong side of an experienced potion-maker.
Guild Head: Nathanael Bareius did not become one of the richest men in the Empire by relaxing on his inheritance. After receiving a substantial fortune from his late father, Lord Bareius went on to receive a full education at the Aurelian National Academy. He graduated as a licensed Imperial alchemist and a member of Kanatalia. At that point, he wagered all of his capital on a single risky investment: alchemy. He opened his vaults, spending every bit he had to make sure that every corner and crevice of the Empire had a licensed Kanatalian alchemist there to provide illumination, potions, medical care, and Guild-approved recreational substances.
Lord Bareius has personally earned back triple his initial investment over the past ten years, and is now poised as the most prominent leader in the Capital. Even more significantly, he seems to have won the battle of public opinion—I haven’t seen a street in the Capital unlit by alchemical lanterns, and no one has died of dysentery or plague since before the Emperor’s death. No matter what you think of his politics, Nathanael Bareius has made great strides in moving our Empire forward into this new century.
Symbol: the Bottled Flame
Spoiler Alert: the Imperial Guard does exactly what you'd expect. More news at 11.
The Imperial Guard:
I trust that all of you understand the purpose of the Imperial Guard: to protect the Emperor’s person, and to shield him from attack and unwanted attention. Some suggest that they failed, that the death of the Emperor proves that the Guard were unequal to their task.
I can assure you that this is not the case.
Through a secret alchemical process known only to the Guild of Alchemists, the Imperial Guard replaces some of their original body parts with those of Kameira. Some Guardsmen have patches armored nightwyrm hide grafted onto their skin, or their eyes substituted with those of a cloud eagle. The process is said to be long and unbearably painful, and it results in guardians with the appearance of monsters.
However, in the twelve hundred years that the Emperor reigned, not a single assassination attempt reached his person. We owe that fact solely to the power and extraordinary sensitivity of the Imperial Guard.
I know that many outside the Capital are wondering what the Guard are up to, now that they have no Emperor to guard. Well, in the words of their Guild Head, “We may no longer have an Emperor, but we have an Empire. That, we will preserve until the sun rises in the west.”
The resolve of a true patriot, gentle readers.
Guild Head: Jarelys Teach, a General in the Emperor’s military and Head of his Imperial Guard, does not at first strike you as an imposing woman. I have met her on many occasions, and found her to be singularly devoted to her job. Popular legend says that she swallowed the blood of a Nightwraith, thereby absorbing its powers, but that’s little more than speculation. It’s a matter of Imperial record that she carries Tyrfang, the Awakened blade used to execute the Emperor’s rivals over a thousand years ago.
Symbol: the Aurelian Shield (a shield bearing the sun-and-moon symbol of the Aurelian Empire)
Because I wasn't paying attention to the days of the week, I missed my post yesterday, so here it is today! The next of the ten Imperial Guilds: the Greenwardens!
These guys are like park rangers with druidic powers, and they're more likely to try and tame a Kameira (one of the monsters in this world) rather than kill it, like a sane person. They actually have a lot more powers than are presented in this excerpt, and I can't wait for you to see them in action!
I just wrote a scene involving the Greenwardens, actually. They're crazy.
While the Greenwardens do protect us from wild Kameira and keep the Imperial Parks that we all know and enjoy, you may not be aware that they were originally intended to save the world.
The Guild of Greenwardens was founded at a time in our history when alchemy was first coming into its own, and we were afraid that a combination of alchemy, then-modern weaponry such as the cannon, and unregulated human intent would tear the world apart.
Greenwardens were created to preserve Kameira, preventing us from driving them extinct, and to monitor and repair the effects of alchemical and gunpowder weapons on the environment. They each carry an Awakened talisman, which for some has become their Soulbound Vessel: a shining green jewel that they use to heal wounds and promote the growth of plants.
Guild Head: Tomas Stillwell is a practicing physician and a fully inducted Magister of the Vey Illai as well as the Guild Head of the Greenwardens, proving that no physical infirmity can prevent you from contributing to your Empire. Though he lost his legs in a childhood encounter with a wild Kameira, he never let that experience make him bitter. Instead, it drove him to study Kameira, their habits, and how they function. He is now one of the most famous natural scientists in the Empire, and he has done much to prevent the extinction of species such as the Stormwings and the Deeproot Flyers.
Symbol: the Green Diamond
I just got out of The Expendables 3, and in my humble opinion, every single movie ever should end with a fistfight between Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson.
Other than that, and Antonio Banderas being hilarious, it was exactly the movie you'd expect. But still, Stallone vs. Gibson is the best final fight scene for any movie, regardless of genre. It's kind of like how Christopher Lloyd should be cast as every movie character, regardless of gender.
On a slightly less serious note, Amazon has finally allowed pre-orders for self-published authors! So from now on, starting with Of Sea and Shadow, I'll be putting up a pre-order option for all of my new books!
You know, as soon as I finish them. Which, for Of Sea and Shadow, will be this winter. Just a little reminder.
And speaking of my new series, here's entry #3 in the Guild Guide...
(Hit the jump)
Reminder: This is preliminary information about one of the Ten Imperial Guilds from my upcoming novel, Of Sea and Shadow. It is all subject to change.
Thanks to generations of legends and misinformation perpetuated by the Luminians, many of you have certain preconceived notions about the Blackwatch. They’re hated by many, feared by all, and I urge you not to heed the rumors. Every Watchman I’ve ever met has been professional, focused, and inquisitive--very few of them actually worship the Elders.
Let me put a few of your unfounded fears to rest: no, they do not eat human flesh for power. No, they do not conduct dark rituals involving blood sacrifice. No, they do not kidnap babies from their cradles.
Yes, they do use certain powers and techniques of the Elders. That’s no reason to treat them like cultists.
The Blackwatch was originally founded by the Emperor for two purposes: watching over the graves of the Great Elders, and studying the Elder Races to twist their great powers for the good of the Empire. It is thanks to the Blackwatch that Urg’Naut or the Dead Mother have not risen and devoured our living world.
Members of this Guild are known as Watchmen. They respond to calls for help and reports of Elder activity. Each Watchman carries seven long, black nails invested with the power to bind Lesser Elders for vivisection and study.
The goals of the Blackwatch often bring them into conflict with Knights and Pilgrims of the Luminian Order, who hunt down Lesser Elders with the goal of destroying them completely.
If the two would only work together, it’s possible that Aurelian lands would never be troubled by Elder attacks again.
Guild Head: The current head of the Blackwatch is a young-seeming woman known only as Bliss. Her origins are shrouded in mystery, though tenuous evidence suggests that she was born in a Kanatalia research facility.
Like every Blackwatch Head before her, she carries the Spear of Tharlos, a weapon supposedly carved from the bone of a Great Elder. I have never interviewed anyone who witnessed the Spear in battle and survived with their sanity intact.
Symbol: the Elder’s Eyes (six eyes on a mass of tentacles)
What you see before you is my attempt to get back on a regular schedule, now that I have my semi-predictable life back on track. I therefore plan to put up a blog post every Friday afternoon, at least until my schedule shifts again.
So, for now, let me explain what I'll be doing.
A handful of you have asked for a summary of my new series (coming later this year!), Of Sea and Shadow. I'm not quite ready to divulge that yet, as an accurate summary of the book contains a sort of twist that I don't think you're prepared to handle.
I won't be giving you a summary, exactly, but I'm giving you more information. That's half of what we're doing here.
Here's the other half: if a handful of you asked for a summary of OSAS, hundreds of you asked for a definitive guide to the Territories. I never wrote one. I have a Territory glossary for myself, of course, but it's in such a personalized, messy format that getting it organized to the point that you'd be able to recognize it as human speech would be harder than writing it from scratch. So, for this next series, I'm writing a guide from scratch.
I call it the Guild Guide, because alliteration amuses me.
The world of Of Sea and Shadow takes place in the lands of the Aurelian Empire, a kingdom that ruled the entire world for the thousand-year lifetime of its Emperor. Five years ago, the Emperor mysteriously died, and now the Empire itself is falling apart.
How did the Empire rule for a thousand years, you ask? On the backs of ten magical orders, known (very accurately) as the Ten Imperial Guilds.
So each week, I'll be providing an in-universe summary of one of the Ten Guilds. It's arranged alphabetically, so the first Guild is The Am'haranai: the Guild of Consultants.
I hope you enjoy the free information, and remember that the picture isn't yet complete. If there's a name you don't recognize or something you don't understand, be patient! Each entry in the Guild Guide is a piece in a puzzle that won't be complete until this winter, with the release of Of Sea and Shadow.
Hit the jump to read more!
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