This episode is nothing more nor less than what it seems: a stand-alone story about a “fallen star.” While it allowed me the opportunity to explore the culture of the nomadic tribes in the “Unclaimed Territories,” and flesh out some of their own perceptions of themselves, and their interactions with the “civilized” nations of Lufilna, it really wasn’t supposed to have a lot of character development, nor huge impact on future episodes. All of which means that while the start was a little slow to write, it ended up going pretty quickly, and after the first two thousand words were written, I finished the rest of the episode in just a few days. Which is good, because I fully anticipate the next episode, In Contempt, being quite a challenge to write.
As in several other Blood Magic episodes, Fallen Angel really shows off my fascination with religion and historical scholarship. In the language of the tribesmen there is no word for “star,” and indeed they have no concept of the stars as lights in the sky independent of their status and existence as deities. This was contrasted with Merolate, which considers itself (and arguably is) a forward-thinking, scholastically advanced civilization, where they are willing to admit that they don’t know what stars are, but are eager to find out for themselves. Of course, a modern reader will almost certainly realize that what fell was no star at all, but rather a meteor impact, which sets up something rather interesting with this episode wherein I tried to make it seem completely rational, in-world, for the Merolate team to come up with explanations and conclusions that are entirely at odds with a reader’s knowledge of the universe.
When I finished writing the first scene with Kiluron and his ministers in this episode, aside from being proud of the character development I was giving Kiluron as he grows more comfortable with his role as Prime I realized that I was going to have to confront a feature of the Merolate government that was a boon in the last season and will be a problem in seasons two and three, now that Kiluron is Prime. In the Merolate government, the Sub-Prime is the active right hand, going about the executing the will of the Prime in the field, while the Prime mostly governs from the castle. At some point that is going to clash with Kiluron’s ideas of leadership, but this episode let me introduce that concept gradually, since Kiluron would not be nearly interested enough in something as scholarly as a fallen star to lead the expedition personally. I knew this would happen eventually when I wrote the outline, which is why after finishing the outline for the season two episodes I went back and added Vere to the first season. You can expect to see a lot more from his viewpoint in future episodes, although we will still mostly follow Kiluron and Doil (from a writing perspective, I consider the main characters, in no particular order, to be: Kiluron, Doil, Borivat, Vere, Fetrina, and Arval – yes, Fetrina has not had very much “screen time” yet, and yes, we haven’t even met Arval yet, but have patience).
Interestingly, I have been finding that these second season episodes are trending longer than those of the first season. In the first season, most episodes hovered around seven or eight thousand words, with one or two that were less, and a few that were more. For the second season, I’ve had to consciously trim down and tighten up the episodes as I’m writing them to keep them right around ten thousand words, lest they all grow to twelve thousand plus. Some of the first season episodes have lengthened during revisions, but I am intrigued by this; perhaps it’s a factor of the greater quantity of world-building, or maybe I have better plots, or maybe I’ve just improved my writing or changed my writing style. I try to keep most “regular” episodes to not much more than ten thousand words, and I don’t intend any episode to come in longer than fifteen thousand – longer than that, and they become hard to read in a single sitting, which is how I really intend these stories to be read.
I’m not sure if you’ll see more of Andil and the Unclaimed Territories. There isn’t really a place for much more of them in the outline’s current form, but that could change; I am somewhat intrigued by the implications I left with the final scene of this episode. The People of the steppes remind me a bit of the Mongols just before the time of Genghis Kahn (though I did not model them thus intentionally, and you should not consider them as stand-ins for the Mongols – these kinds of echoes are simply an inevitable part of writing (if you want to learn more about the ancient Mongols and Genghis Kahn, I highly recommend Conn Iggulden’s historical fiction series on the man)), and Andil was clearly itching to unite his people, but the impetus is not there – the nations of Lufilna and their interactions with the Unclaimed Territories are practically non-existent, save for the occasional border skirmishes. For now, it’s just world-building, a loose end that is open for the reader to imagine. We shall see if I decide to bring Andil or any of his people back for a prominent role in later episodes.
Although it doesn’t have magic in it, and Doil (my personal favorite character) is only in one scene, I really liked this episode, both for writing and reading, and I think you will to, so I am pleased to present Fallen Angel.
Somewhere in the Unclaimed Territories, Andil scratched idly at the dirt with the charred end of a stick. He knew he was a little north of the Merolate border, but he wasn’t certain how far; as long as he stayed away from the various guardposts and stations where soldiers kept watch the precise boundary was of little importance to him. After all, these rugged steppes weren’t unclaimed, not to him. He claimed them, as had his mothers, and their foremothers. They were simply home, where he had been born and raised. Even so, they felt alien on this night. Not dangerous, but sullen. There was a brooding sense about the landscape, no matter how familiar it might be.
Although, if Andil were honest with himself, some of that sense might have been his own uncertainty. As did everyone in the tribe, he had studied the gods, learning their names and the stories and their positions in the heavens, but his heart had always belonged to the bow. How he longed that he had been allowed to bring his bow with him, but Wisers were forbidden any weapon save a small, stone knife, just as they were forbidden the taking of life, whether plant, animal, or human. In this way were the Wisers made subservient unto those who could take life, which was the greatest of powers.
His horse knickered softly beside him, and he rose to rub its nose. The animal showed no signs of anxiety, so clearly whatever sense Andil was getting from the surroundings was not something that might set an animal on edge, and everyone knew to watch the animals for signs of danger; always they would know it before the people.
There was no fire burning, so it was a crisp, cold night, though it was summer. Even in the season of life it stayed cool in the Territories, although to Andil it was comfortable beneath his furs; he could hardly imagine a place where it grew so warm and lush as it was said to in the southern parts of Merolate. Above him, the sky sparkled with gods, glittering and gleaming and casting their distant light to the eyes of those who knew to look upon their beauty. They seemed especially attentive this night, twinkling and pulsing in the distant heavens. Perhaps this night, finally, they would answer his prayers.
Holding out his arms and laying himself back, so that he was facing the distant dome of the dark sky, spreadeagled, that the gods might better perceive him, Andil widened his eyes as far as he could, and began to recite the same prayer he had said for the past four nights. “Mighty Gods, Lights of the Heavens, hear now the supplication of your humble servant. May you watch over my people in their journeys, and guide them on their ways to paths most pleasing to your glory. May you bless the season of life, that it be bountiful and filled with growing, that my people may not know hunger nor want. May you bless the season of death to come, that it bring great cleaning of white across the land, and leave it refreshed for the life ahead, that my people may ever dwell in this land. May all that is evil be cast upon me, and not upon my people, that they may not suffer beyond their measure…”
He continued on, though his fingers were cold and his back uncomfortable against the ground, and his eyes itched so that he desperately wanted to blink them, and even more he wanted to finish his prayer that he might sleep, but he let none of these things interrupt the ritual, nor cloud the words which he cast up to the distant gods. All across the steppe, he knew, were other Wisers splayed out upon the ground in like manner, sending forth their own prayers on journeys to the gods, and knowing that gave Andil greater strength to continue in his prayer.
“Let the bows of the hunters ever be true, and may the eyes that see be keen, and the hands that wield them be sure. Let the hands of the gatherers be ever tough, and may the ears that hear the ripeness be attuned, and the backs that support them be strong…”
High above him, at the peak of his vision, something flared. At first Andil dismissed it as naught but a trick of his dry and itching eyes, but then another flare sparkled, and this time he was certain it belonged to the heavens high above. Against his will, his eyes blinked, and tears welled up, so that when another light flashed infinitely high above his forehead it seemed to scatter into the form of all the stars together. Then a new star appeared, vast and bright like a new moon, though much smaller and closer, and it left behind it a trail of fire across the sky. It arced across Andil’s vision, and he followed it with his eyes until it disappeared over the horizon to the south and was gone.
Naught else seemed to have even taken notice of the fallen god, but to Andil it was a clear message from the heavens. The gods above had cast this one of their number from the heavens down to the mortal lands far below them, and Andil’s part would be to see that their will was fulfilled. He remembered well the teachings of the older Wisers, who whispered of a time in the distant past when another god had been cast down from the heavens in exile, and had scrawled flame across the steppes before the gods had sent a great blizzard to extinguish its light forever. That had been a dark time for the tribes, for they had suffered greatly for their ignorance of how they ought to treat the fallen god. This time, they would not make such a mistake, but would ensure that wherever it had fallen it lay undisturbed, until the gods could finish their punishment.
In haste he prepared his horse, extinguished his fire, and packed away his sparse camp. Thus readied, Andil mounted, and rode off in haste through the night to find the main body of his tribe, where they were camped not far distant from his own place of isolation. With the other Wisers, he would muster them, and then they would ride forth to find where the god had fallen, and ensure that the gods’ will was fulfilled upon the exiled one.
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