We've got a total of eleven reviews on the Elder Empire books, as I'm writing this, so it's time for me to answer ten questions in character!
Remember: you're asking the characters questions, not me. And they'll answer the first ten, with the first answers coming tomorrow, January 4th: I'm giving the questions a little time to pile up.
So start asking now! It's first-come, first serve.
EDIT: The ten questions are in! And heeeeeeeere they are...
1.) (from Michael) To Kerian [Of Shadow and Sea]: "How did you just make the food appear like that? Or how do the Consultants just seem to appear and disappear without a trace?"
Kerian sits behind the polished desk in the chapter house of her Guild, a pleasant smile on her face. "I pride myself on my preparations, sir, and our Guild operates with the highest levels of discretion. I cannot comment on the specific incident to which you refer, but I can assure you that we are qualified to satisfy your every request promptly and with absolute stealth. Speaking of which...would you like a drink?"
2.) (from Yosef) To Kathrin [City of Light]: "Who and what is your advisor?"
Kathrin runs a hand through her short, graying hair. "I try not to think about it. They're cats, you hear me? Ceramic cats. I've got a black one and a white one, and they can send messages to one another. That's it.
"What? Oh, sure, it's useful. Nobody else can communicate over distance, but I mean...Indirial can sense danger. Corren could track her prey for miles over desert! I could have had an adviser that sees through walls, or lets me fight in the dark, or helps me stay hidden, and I get the one that has absolutely no combat application.
"Sure, okay, yes, Denner's got his book. But that's not the same thing."
3.) (from Curious) to Valin [City of Light]: "Why did you set forth on a world-hopping, Territory-founding adventure? What were you before you did that?"
Valin looks around the graveyard, confused, as green lightning flashes overhead. "First off, how did you even get in here? You know what, never mind. It's an easy answer. The Territories are just so much more interesting than our world, so I spent all my time there. I never attuned to any of them, though. I guess they wouldn't have me.
"The Damascan royal family recruited me for my...particular talents." He hefts his sword, examining its blade in the rolling green light. "After that, everything got complicated. I'll tell you the story some other time, but I find myself growing tired."
With that, the Wanderer fell onto his back and died one more time.
4.) (from Aaron) to Valin [City of Light]: "Did you ever find your dragons?"
Valin grips his borrowed sword and stares off, into the forest of graves. "A whole army of them."
5.) (from April) to Hariman [House of Blades]: "How was Orgrith Cave created? Why does it exhibit the characteristics of the Territories?"
The golden face on the surface of the book practically shines with excitement. "Why, certainly! What an excellent question! I can see that you are an educated soul, with a carefully cultivated taste for knowledge!
"In the older days of this land, shortly after the arrival of the Damascans from the other side of the Western Isles, the Territories were still poorly understood. Travelers were considered ill fortune, if you can believe such a thing, and were often shunned. A group of them--perhaps only five or six, or maybe as many as a hundred, according to conflicting sources--sought shelter in a cave. They began to use their powers to search for food and water, to defend themselves, that sort of thing. It is a pity there were no Asphodel Travelers among them, isn't it? Would have made this story much shorter.
"Sadly, they were only a collection of Ornheim, Tartarus, and Naraka. As well as perhaps a Lirial or two, though no one is certain. Very little food in those Territories. They supported one another as best they could, but after only a few months, they were discovered.
"Now, it was carelessness that led to this discovery. Pure carelessness. You see, in the first year of King--"
Hariman is cut off by Denner, who picks up the book and shoves it under his arm. You hear muffled protests beneath Denner's elbow.
Denner sighs. "I'm sorry about that. He goes on. Long story short, the Travelers are attacked by their neighbors. They change the cave, twisting it, making it more and more like a Territory so they can defend themselves. They raise guardians they don't understand. The attackers never make it in, sure, but neither do the defenders ever make it out."
He shrugs. "Because of that story and many like it, Travelers began to organize. There you go. Now I've saved you five or six hours."
Hariman squirms his way out from Denner's arm, grumbling. "I could have done it in four."
6.) (from April, since she wrote two reviews) to Gilad [House of Blades]: "What did you confess to the Obsidian Tree in Naraka?"
Gilad won't meet your eyes. His answer is little more than a whisper. "I don't have to talk about that. I don't have to think about it. It's tradition. I have been punished...I am being punished."
Without another word, he opens a Helgard Gate and Travels away.
7.) (from Jeremiah Halstead) to Nikolos [Tower of Winter]: "What happened to Donia after you traveled together in the Tower?"
Nikolos, old and gray and seated beneath a blanket, laughs fondly when he hears your question. "Seven stones, Donia Sarkis! I haven't thought of her in years. As for what happened to her...would you believe I don't know? No, really! I barely know what happened to me, if you want the truth. We're trapped beneath the ice, and I'm asking childish questions because I'm sure we're going to die. I woke up what seemed like seconds later, lying in the middle of a random village. I don't even remember how I made my way to Bel Calem, but from there the Overlord got me home.
"As for Donia...I tried to find out, for a few years. Bribed a few Helgard Travelers, but none of them would ever talk about it. They don't like talking about the sixteenth floor at all, as it turns out. It's a shame, really. I left a few things behind."
He peels away the blanket over his legs, revealing that they end in stumps beneath the knee. "I suspect it's thanks to her that I still have my life."
8.) (from John) to Will Wight [Earth]: "Why does the cover use an ampersand and the Amazon title 'and'?"
"You broke the rules, John. I told you to ask the characters questions, not me. And yet you just wouldn't listen. Don't you know the rules are there for a reason? It's hard enough keeping all these characters in my head! I can't do it with me in there too! The walls are breaking down! I can see a host of worlds...a sparkling multiverse, like a sea of stars...who am I, against the infinite? What am I?
"What have you made of me, John?"
9.) (from Scott) to "All the Valinhall Travelers" (nice try) [House of Blades]: "What is your favorite room in Valinhall?"
Simon: "My old bedroom."
Andra: "The garden is incredible."
Kathrin: "The outside."
Denner: "The entry hall. It lets me leave."
Valin: "The Nexus."
Indirial: "Bring your sword if you wish to ask me a question! I am Valinhall!"
The rest say nothing, because they're dead.
10.) (from Mesmerizing Suggestion) to the Eldest Nye [House of Blades]: "What is or was the fighting style of the Dragon Army? Formation? Individual? Please elaborate."
The Eldest is behind you. No matter how you twist or turn to follow his rasping voice, he's always behind you. Like your shadow.
"Valin's 'children' took after their father. They were prideful. Individualistic. They formed teams, certainly, temporary alliances that were easily broken when they drifted off to pursue conflicting goals. Together, they could have been a force that broke Damasca like a hammer through glass. But they never worked together, and it led them all to death.
"That was the past. The future will be different--a weapon built to my design. For I am wise where my Master was foolish.
"The new generation of Dragons, they work together. They eat together. They live together. I am forging one weapon, not thirteen. And Damasca thinks they are servants. I know, more than most, the power servants have over their masters."
A cold length of chain settles around your throat, biting into the flesh of your neck. Your heart races, and you spread sweaty palms to show that you aren't reaching for a weapon.
Dry breath whispers into your ear.
"Tell me. Would you like a sword?"
I've spent this whole week writing, so I wasn't sure what to say today. In the end, I decided to give you a glimpse at a page I wrote this week.
This is a flashback scene from the middle of Of Sea and Shadow, and it involves Calder meeting with his mother (Alsa), who is an influential member of the Blackwatch Guild.
I haven't edited this at all; it's a screenshot straight from the OSAS file, and this scene is in its first draft. It's also very small, because I'm lazy, so grab your reading glasses for your old lady eyes.
Then hit the jump!
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
Of the Cradle series
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