Category Archives: A-Z Blog Challenge

O is for Orders of the Church

Although only two of the orders are really touched upon in the novel, there are four orders of the church in the Gauntlet Series. I have pages and pages written about each of them, but here are some snippets. The church itself accepts, trains, and sends out members of each of the four orders, all of which have headquarters in Kaneelis.

Order of Might

Primarily composed of high-born sons of the nobility, this militaristic order is made up of five Brotherhoods, each attached to the countries containing a seat of power for the church. The primary Brotherhood is in the capitol city of Kaneelis, in Terris, of course, where the Brotherhood of the Shield oversees affairs for the city as well as the rest of the church. Each member of the brotherhood first trains as pages, then squires and scribes, then monks and warriors, and finally as knight-priests. They are generally free to choose their calling, whether as palace guards, personal trainers and teachers, assistants to the bishops, church staff members, or fulfilling personal quests in the name of Adona.

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In Falara, the Brotherhood of the Lance works as the city guard, as well as training and leading the secular militia in defense of the country and protecting citizen and guarding the border from the Redolian menace.

The Brotherhood of the Sword, in Silver, attempts to stay out of the politics of thirteen warring brothers while trying to maintain order. Theirs is the most difficult order and the bishops stay in constant contact with the church in Terris, seeking guidance.

In Bodor, the Brotherhood of the Ring has spent decades in the service of an aging king, far from the influences of the primary church in Terris. It is feared that they are losing their way and communications with Terris have been growing strained.

The Brotherhood of the Gauntlet, in Ven-Kerrick, have held the honor of guarding the gauntlet–or perhaps guarding those who would lose their lives attempting to steal it. Each Gauntlet Knight has been hand chosen by the Ven-Kerrick king, based on their qualities of honesty, integrity, intelligence, and sometimes things that only the king can see.

Order of Knowledge

There are three branches of the Order of Knowledge. The Brotherhood of the Book are the keepers of knowledge and maintain extensive libraries in all major cities. The archbishop is always chosen from the Brotherhood of the Book.

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The League of the Pen contains scribes and is one of the few that accept women. There is no priesthood and they are often sent to work for overlords with a monetary agreement.

The Brotherhood of the Path is for wandering priests. There are several fixed sees and monasteries that are up-kept by mandatory one year indoor service contracts. They are the most numerous of the orders and can be found speaking the word of Adona even in heathen countries such as Redol, Akarska, and Tar-Tan.

Order of Healing

Healers are the most respected and the most desired members of the church. They are found in nearly all cities and often share space with the Order of Knowledge. There are three branches of the order:

Brotherhood of the Leaf: Mostly found in the northern countries, Terris and Falara.

Brotherhood of the Chalice: Occupies the countries south of the Abyss: Penkangum, Silver, and Bodor.

League of the Rose: They allow both women and marriage, a rarity in the more bookish orders, but they claim that celibacy is unhealthy and women tend to be more compassionate healers.

The Bardic Order

Bards are not priests, or even monks, and women can not only be members, but also ministers. Usually found where there are healers, the teaching center is only in Kaneelis. Bards wander the world from there. Anyone may become a bard, and they are designated by the wearing of blue robes with a badge upon their breast, as follows: White Palm (for song), Golden Harp (for harp), Brown Lute (for stringed instruments), Green Pipes (wind instruments). Each foil is awarded upon completion of Mastery, therefore Bards are referred to as unifoil, bifoil, trifoil, or quatrefoil when listing their accomplishments.

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N is for Nykar

Nykar is a rough and tumble guy with a no-nonsense attitude and some pretty useful skills, such as sneaking, eavesdropping, looking intimidating, being intimidating, and generally being the most excellent bodyguard a princely type could ask for. He could also be a poster child for loyalty, as he doesn’t seem to have many goals in life beyond doing anything that Prince Rakyn of Darkynhold asks of him. Of course, he absolutely loves his job, especially the more nefarious and possibly not-so-legally sanctioned portions, and he is very well paid for his services, because he does the job of three or four normal royal “servants”. Rakyn relies upon him for just about everything, including seeking out information, delivering messages, imparting justice, and keeping tabs on the political machinations of his twelve warring brothers. It’s no wonder Nykar has no time for anything else.

Nykar

You don’t want to meet him in a dark alley. Or even a well-lit alley.

Nykar has a wicked (if sometime inappropriate) sense of humor, which balances nicely with Rakyn’s tendencies toward grim introspection. They have a complicated relationship and Rakyn frequently wonders why Nykar continues to put up with him instead of running off to Bodor and settling down with a sturdy hut and a nice fruit orchard. (When asked, Nykar stated that he wasn’t very fond of fruit, and why live in a hut when he had a comfy set of suites in the palace, and what kind of stupid question was that anyway?) Rakyn did not bring it up again.

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M is for Morgyn

Although Morgyn is the chieftain of his Redolian tribe, when his brother goes missing after an impulsive plan goes awry, he drops everything and goes looking for him. When he is unable to locate Toryn (or find his dead body lying in a ravine) he decides to track down the Falaran that Toryn meant to kill, hoping to find some answers, and possibly finish the job that Toryn started if the news is unfavorable. What he least expects to find is his brother following the Redolian heir around like a trained lapdog. Before he can quite wrap his head around the concept, they are embroiled in action and Toryn disappears yet again. What is a good brother to do except head for the nearest watering hole and drown his annoyance in alcohol?

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Even though he was far from home, he managed to locate a kindred soul in the form of Knight Commander Montyr, who shares his vision of correcting most of life’s little problems by cracking skulls. It is through his friendship with Montyr that Morgyn begins to realize that even though it is easy to hate someone to which you have affixed a label (Falaran, southerner, foreigner, heathen) it is far more difficult to despise them once you are forced to see the person beneath the label. He grudgingly admits, if only to himself, that there might be more to Brydon Redwing than meets the eye.

And to be honest, the southerners make superior ale.

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L is for Lyryn

It was more fun that I’d expected adding a stubborn little hoyden of indeterminate age to the regular cast. Although I find her nearly as annoying as Toryn does, I have to admit it’s pretty fun writing her. She rarely sits still and her calculating brain is constantly concocting plots to get herself what she wants. She sometimes seems like a younger version of Alyn, but I think even as a child Alyn exhibited more maturity than Lyryn seems capable of, although in reality she is quite capable–she just doesn’t want to grow up. It’s boring, and not even her unrelenting crush on Toryn can persuade her to stop behaving like a selfish child.

tween

She is wary of Brydon and treats him with respect, possibly as gratitude for his willingness to allow her to accompany them in exchange for her assistance. She doesn’t quite know what to make of him and seems to know–as children often do–that there is something about  him that is different. She prefers to wait and watch before deciding if his other-ness is a good or bad thing, and will ultimately decide when she can weigh it on the scale of what he can do for her.

(Photo of Thylane Blondeau gakked from the internet without permission and holy hell was it hard to find a tween girl that wasn’t gazing seductively at the camera or made up to look fifteen years older. Quite horrifying, not gonna lie.)

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K is for Kaneelis

matera

Kaneelis is one of my favorite places in the Gauntlet series. It’s a thriving city on the coast that is the center of trade for Brydon’s whole world. It is also the center of religion, where Temples have been built to house every branch of the Church, from the towering Temple of Might to the serene halls of the Temple of Healing. Despite the presence of so many religious establishments, the Church is content to leave secular matters to the city council and the merchants guild. They are, however, in charge of keeping peace in the city. Offenses against citizens are not tolerated, and justice can be swift and permanent.

All manner of goods are available in Kaneelis, from Redolian leathers to rare herbs from the rain forests of Parmitta. The Corolis Islands provide fine wine and sparkling jewelry is available adorned with every gem produced by the mines of Silver. Tradesmen and craftsmen flock to the city, and the air of peace and plenty has given rise to an array of artworks. There are museums and galleries in several areas of the city (although Brydon and his friends do not remain long enough to enjoy such pursuits) and buildings are adorned with frescoes, statues, and sculptures.

Truly it is a magical place, and hopefully one that our heroes may return to sometime in the near future.

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J is for Jace

I know it’s been like a million years or so since I posted, but I really want to continue this, so here we go!

Jace is one of my favorite characters in the Gauntlet Series and one who undergoes the largest transformation. He is a very solid character in the first book, secure in his belief, knowing his purpose in life, and having an easygoing, friendly, and unstressed world view. When Brydon first meets him, Jace is the full-fledged version of what Brydon hopes to one day be: a knight-priest with no doubts in his faith or his own abilities.

knight

In the second book, Jace has an experience that no only shatters his faith but also completely alters his personality. He learns that even the strongest foundations can be shaken, and he becomes almost unrecognizable to his friends. Although they stand by him, they long for the man they once knew and hope for his eventual return. As the third book progresses, it remains to be seen if that is even an option.

 

 

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H is for Horses

Horses have an important role in the ongoing plotline of the Gauntlet Series. When I first came up with the idea of Alyn as a “horse mistress” it seemed somewhat common, so I decided to make her position much rarer than simply a girl who was good with horses. Instead, the fact that she had a horse at all made her immediately special, a fact that was recognized by both protagonists at once. She was also a force to be reckoned with because of it. Once I decided that horses were in very short supply, I had to decide why they were so rare, especially as their usefulness is unquestionable in pre-industrial times. A horse-hoarding country became a necessity.

Horses are in short supply in Brydon’s world, largely because they have been selectively bred and obsessively kept track of in Akarska. The Akarskan founders had little to offer the world by way of trade. Aside from lumber, Akarska has few natural resources and little farmland. They are a self-sustaining people and don’t need much from outsiders, therefore they trade just enough (non-breeding stock) horses to get by. This prevents the rest of the world from forgetting about them entirely, although some places (Tar-Tan) are far more interested than they should be. With that said, the desire for horses is far greater than most Akarskans suspect. Of course they deal with occasional horse-thieves and raiders, but they tend to collectively believe that if they leave the world alone, they will be left alone. In truth, it is geography that keeps Akarska safe from invasion.

Darkling

Darkling is fast.

Akarska is bordered on three sides by inhospitable terrain. The the east is the volcano-strewn lava fields of Canaar, and to the south is the near-impassable Abyss. The west side is protected by the murky, deadly swamps of Terris, leaving only Falara to the north as a potential threat. With that in mind, Akarska has always remained on good terms with the Falaran leaders, going so far as to supply horses to their resident religious orders, and gifts of an occasional steed or two to the reigning king. Given the rarity of the animals, the ruling class of Falara has never felt it necessary to demand more, in addition to being reluctant to start a war on a second border, given their all-encompassing preoccupation with Redol. Falara’s ongoing war with Redol is Akarska’s greatest hope for continued freedom.

Bloodsong

Bloodsong asking Toryn to hurry up with those oats.

Without dire threat of invasion, Akarsaka has been able to maintain a near monopoly on horseflesh for centuries. Of course, these things tend to change without warning. Shortly after meeting Brydon and Toryn, the three travelers find a group of stray horses–extremely unusual in Akarska–and Brydon acquires Darkling, a black stallion that Alyn is determined to take away from him once they reach the border. Later, Toryn is gifted with a very special steed who plays a pivotal part in more than one chapter of the series, making the horse, Bloodsong, almost a main character rather than a simple draft animal.

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G is for Garyn

Garyn is a minor character in the series, but like many minor characters, several of his decisions become pivotal to the plot and serves to alter the courses of the main characters, even though none of them are aware of it at the time. I think of Garyn as the typical boy-next-door. He’s not overly ambitious, not overly talented, not overly handsome or overly anything. He’s pretty much the quintessential “average dude” which is part of what I like about him.

Ohhhh, a farmer’s life for me!

Garyn grew up in a quiet farming community in Bodor, the only child of a placid couple who doted on him and expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps, possibly marrying a girl of solid, homespun values and settling into the farming life in the same village, or at least one near enough to walk to on holidays. He should have found that local girl, bought a small house, planted a vegetable garden, and acquired a couple of hunting dogs before heading out to the fields every day to check on the pumpkin crop. Garyn would have been happy with that life, I believe. Much to his parents’ dismay, there was one obstacle to that plan, and her name was Sellaris.

Image gakked from Google, but isn’t it awesome? Artist found here: http://alunne.deviantart.com/

As happens with many average boys-next-door, Garyn fell in love with the wrong girl. She was his opposite in nearly every way, spontaneous where he was careful, outspoken where he was meek, loud where he was quiet, and domineering where he would would give in merely for the sake of keeping the peace. He was drawn to her fiery personality, her intense ambition, and her need to be anything other than a farmer’s wife. She craved adventure and travel and mystery. While Garyn would have been perfectly happy living the quiet life of a farmer, she infected him with her desire for more, and instead of settling down he found himself packing his belongings and heading out for a life of, well frankly, a life of crime. Where Garyn also had very solid morals and a healthy sense of right and wrong, Sellaris most definitely did not.

(This is actually cosplay.) *bows before greatness* Linky: http://community.eidosmontreal.com/blogs/Thief-Cosplay-Spotlight-Lyz-Brickley

While Garyn willingly follows Sellaris into a life of adventure and danger, he isn’t fond of it at all. As she grows more into her element and takes on larger and more perilous jobs, Garyn wrestles his conscience and questions whether or not their course is a wise one. He takes it upon himself to try and counsel Sellaris, hoping to drag her back to what he considers to be a more normal life, and hoping against all odds that she will finish sowing her wild oats and want the same things that he wants: a stable home, a family, and a peaceful life without the threat of death breathing down their necks. Unfortunately for him, instead of growing weary of their hazardous, homeless existence, Sellaris seems to thrive on it.

When the series begins, Garyn must decide if his steadfast devotion to Sellaris is worth the sacrifice of his values, and when he finally makes a choice it turns out that even a minor character can have major influence.

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F is for FUN!

I know you were probably expecting F is for Falara, but I just touched on Eaglecrest in the last post and, frankly, Falara isn’t the most exciting place. It’s often cold and they spend a lot of time indoors, drinking. The food there is pretty good, which speaks even more highly of Toryn’s cooking since managed to impress Brydon. But I digress because this post is about fun!

Some fantasy novels, I’ve found, become mired down in their own seriousness, and every word drips tension and drama until, by the end, the reader feels as if they’ve walked every agonizing step with their heroes and need a couple of weeks to rest their brains. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing and I’ve devoured plenty of those in my day, but I appreciate it when an author takes the time to give their characters a little bit of fun, because without that life is pretty much a dull, endless quest towards that lava pit on Mount Doom.

Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Volcano_q.jpg#/media/File:Volcano_q.jpg

“Volcano q”. Licensed under Public Domain via

For my characters, fun can have vastly different meanings. Brydon’s idea of fun is a nice workout with his sword, shooting at targets to perfect his skill with a bow, or possibly sleeping. He enjoys sleeping much more than he lets on in the book; don’t let him fool you. He pretends to enjoy reading, but most of the books he’s read have been dull histories or church documents discussing the proper way to live a noble life.

Toryn, on the other hand, thinks the best way to have fun is hours of companionship of the naked variety. He doesn’t have much opportunity for casual dalliance during the quest and he finds it ironic that Brydon gets more action during their journey than he does. Of course, being attracted to the more volatile sort of woman is a drawback in that regard, first with Alyn and then Daryna. By the time he meets Daryna he has, thankfully, learned that sometimes it’s better to not get involved with the ones who might shred all your clothes during the night in a fit of jealous rage. I’m not saying Daryna would do such a thing, except that she totally would.

Romantic shenanigans aside, Toryn has a tendency to add elements of fun to what might otherwise be a boring journey, although Brydon doesn’t always appreciate his assistance in that regard. Toryn is always ready with a sardonic comment, which sometimes provokes the others to certain levels of annoyance.

The cleft was far too narrow for Brydon to climb down and assist her, and she could not reach her own ankle.

“Can you slide your foot out of the boot?” he asked finally.

“Don’t you think I already tried that?” she snapped. Brydon’s urge to leave her strengthened.

“Well?” Toryn called. “Is she dead?”

“No, she’s stuck in the rocks,” Brydon replied.

Alyn groaned as Toryn’s guffaw reached them. “Too many meat pies and pastries?” Toryn asked.

Alyn shouted several loud slurs about Toryn and his parentage and then she wrenched at her leg. Rage must have lent her strength, for she was suddenly free and clambered out of the hole like an angry badger.

Brydon eventually gets used to Toryn’s quips, although he never gets past the urge to bruise him for the privilege.

“I need to tell you something.”

Toryn sighed and set the pot near the fire. “You’re not planning to confess your undying love, are you?”

Brydon punched him on the shoulder.

Or shove him into nearby water features.

“And if you return without the gauntlet?” Toryn asked.

“I resume my old life as before. But I would be privately considered a failure.”

“What does your princess want with it?”

Brydon grinned and then laughed. “My place is not to ask why, Tory, my friend. Mine is to quest and bring back.”

“Sort of like a hound?” Toryn asked.

“I suppose,” Brydon replied with a growl and shoved him at a nearby fountain.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Larus_heermanni_in_a_fountain_in_Sausalito,_California.jpg#/media/File:Larus_heermanni_in_a_fountain_in_Sausalito,_California.jpg

“Larus heermanni in a fountain in Sausalito, California” by Wingchi Poon – Own work.

Although occasionally Brydon gets to turn the tables.

Toryn sat up and tugged his boots on. “When I agreed to come with you, I expected a nice, quiet journey,” Toryn grumbled. “What have I gotten? Lions. A viperous Akarskan wench. An insane Penk who thinks he’s a werewolf. Captured by thieves. A battle with thieves. A battle with more thieves. A man who disappears into thin air before I can slice him in two. A Falaran who can read my mind. Swamps, mud, rain, bugs, and fever. A city full of howling madmen and tax collectors. Now this. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Did you plan all this?”

“If you are finished whining, I suggest we go find Davin,” Brydon said mildly.

When all is said and done, one fun character can spice things up just enough to keep the others on their toes, and prevent long journeys from getting monotonous.

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E is for Eryka (and Eaglecrest)

Eryka is the intended love interest for Brydon, the main character, or more specifically he is the intended love interest from Eryka’s perspective. Most of the residents of Falara are also firmly behind them as a romantic pairing, since Brydon is an upstanding citizen, a knight-priest of the Brotherhood of the Lance, and came from humble working stock. They also make a fine-looking couple and there is little doubt that they would produce beautiful children. Their relationship is complicated, however, as much of their time together was spent with Brydon doing Eryka’s bidding while she ordered him around like a glorified servant. To be fair, they were both children and she was exceedingly spoiled. Brydon spent quite a lot of time in the castle Eaglecrest while his father was a royal smith, but when his father died he joined the knight-priests in order to obtain a steady income and support his mother, who moved back to the small village where Brydon had spent most of his early childhood.

"Blacksmith tools" by Lacen - National park Krka, Croatia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG

“Blacksmith tools” by Lacen – National park Krka, Croatia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Blacksmith_tools.JPG

Eaglecrest itself can refer to either the city or the castle that overlooks it. The royal palace was carved into the immense stone cliffs that tower above the city like watchful guardians. The place is practically impregnable, reached only by a narrow, winding path that crawls up to the massive gates midway up the wall. Eaglecrest Castle has never been under assault, partly due to the fact that the Redolian forces seldom make it as far as the city, even at their most organized, but also because one would have to be mad to attempt it. The defenses of the city itself are minimal, as the citizens rely on the fact that they can flee to the castle for protection in the event of a rare attack.

Brydon is not sure about Eryka’s motivation in regards to his quest. They never had a romantic connection and, in fact, he often wondered if she liked him at all. At best she seemed to tolerate him and at worst she treated him like a scullery. He suspected she had been pressured into making a decision as her birthday approached and, in desperation, had chosen the least offensive option available. Despite his puzzlement, Brydon was gratified at her trust in him, although he was not particularly happy at the idea of leaving his mother alone while he jaunted halfway across the world in search of an item that might be nothing but a myth. As for the quest itself, he frequently wondered why she had chosen the Gauntlet of Ven-Kerrick. He had asked her point-blank on the day she had chosen him as a suitor and she had replied with a cryptic, “Because I want it.” As he was accustomed to hearing that particular phrasing and seeing the entitled jut of her chin that accompanied the words, he had known there would be no additional information forthcoming. At the end of the day, Eryka was still the future queen of Falara and Brydon would always be a loyal subject. Whatever her motivation, he would do his duty and fulfill the terms of the quest to the end.

At least, he always thought he would.

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