I debated whether I should do a reflections post for season two at all. Since I started doing the release posts, most of the ground that I would cover in such a post is covered in those, instead, and I don’t want to be redundant. While Blood Magic is a major part of IGC Publishing at this point, making up the bulk of its content, I still want to be able to appeal to and attract readers who may not be interested in that particular series. However, I found after I finished the season two finale that I had enough to say about the season as a whole to make this post worth writing. Plus, I try to keep from putting spoilers to the events of the episode in the release posts, so consider this you spoiler warning: I do not intend to be so careful here.
Blood Magic’s second season was all about Kiluron and Doil stepping into their new roles as Prime and Advisor, after old Prime Wezzix dies at the end of season one. If I had to define a theme for each season, season one would be the titular Blood Magic, season two would be leadership, and season three would be change. Ever since Kiluron beat up a drunk in a bar in the opening scene, his inner turmoil has been a source of ample fodder for storytelling, especially his relationship with responsibility, so when he is forced to assume the mantle of Prime, it seemed a natural fit to make that a source of conflict for him. I don’t know exactly how old he is, but it’s probably somewhere in his late teens. And he just was made ruler of a regional superpower. In the United States today, he might not even be old enough to vote.
At the same time, I didn’t want his doubts and second guessing to overwhelm the other story elements, or become old and redundant and overstated. One of the things I think that I did well throughout season two was capturing Kiluron’s evolving confidence. As he makes some decisions that turn out well, and gains more experience, he becomes more confident. That confidence is naturally shaken, and he has a bit of a relapse in episode eight, but recovers. The season finale is a tour de force of his acceptance of his role as Prime. He still has his doubts, and his internal monologue that sometimes gets down on him, but he has learned to trust himself and project confidence to those who follow him. Even when the time comes to abandon his capital city, he doesn’t sink into the fog of self-doubt that he might have at the beginning of the season. I think that’s pretty true to our own experiences in life.
That level of character dynamism makes Doil’s arc seem so subtle as to be almost imperceptible. That’s okay – he was always intended to be a more stable character to play against Kiluron – but I didn’t want him to become boring, and his arc is almost as interesting, in my opinion. Doil is the rule-following academic who would prefer to research a problem for days rather than be forced to make a decision. Most of the time, that’s okay, but as Kiluron’s Advisor (and as Kiluron’s friend) he increasingly is forced out of his comfort zone, and is forced to commit to decisions, usually without having time to get all of the information he might want. As anyone else who makes a decision matrix about where to go on vacation can probably attest, I can relate to that thirst for information, and like Doil I’ve had to learn that there are times when getting that kind of information is simply not viable.
Borivat took a back seat during season two. That wasn’t entirely intentional, as I still think he’s an interesting character, but giving him a prominent role to play would have detracted from Kiluron and Doil’s opportunity to adapt to their new roles. I had thought that I would have him serving as the remaining mentor character, the “adult” in the room, if you will, but the plots of the episodes led me to give that role more and more to Vere instead. That was a more interesting decision, precisely because Vere is not strictly speaking the best of mentors. His expanded role in the season was an important element that helped the episodes work. Still, I wish that I had been able to maneuver Borivat into a position where we could see his reaction to learning of Priestess Marinae’s death. That could have been a powerful moment, but there was no opportunity to do it. Maybe I’ll somehow include that in the first episode of season three, since as of the end of season two I don’t think he had even learned that she died yet.
Although Fetrina is referenced a few times, she faded in season two, becoming more of a background character. I had intended for her presence to actually increase in the second season, but the nature of Kiluron’s arc wasn’t conducive to that, and so I left her mostly offstage. She’ll make something of a return in season three, but I’ve already decided based on season two that the nature of that return will need to change. It will be more tied to the yet-to-be-introduced Arval, and less tied to her relationship with Kiluron.
I’m still torn about my decision to use the dragons in the final episode. That wasn’t originally part of the plan – I was going to have the Blood Priests fill that role – but it served as too perfect of an opportunity to emphasize why Blood Magic is named as it is. If you start thinking that High Priest Yorin is just a kindly old wizard, read the part of episode twelve where his only qualm about performing mass human sacrifice in the service of a major war is that the Prime wasn’t willing to be involved in the mess. The dragons’ Blood Magic is powered differently, and is tied to their fundamental nature, so they do not shed blood. The exact mechanism involves their life force, which is reduced with their use of Blood Magic, but since they have such long lives, they can use quite a lot of Blood Magic without being notably diminished. In fact, it is thought that dragons might be immortal, provided they do not use Blood Magic.
The dragons are a problem from a storytelling perspective, in that they’re too powerful. They were in the outline originally because, well, I wanted there to be dragons in this world. They evolved eventually into part of the Blood Magic paradigm, a counterpart of sorts to the diabolical Giants who built Heart City. I’m glad that they get a role, because they provide such an interesting excuse to talk about the history of Lufilna, but because of how powerful they are, and because the cost of their Blood Magic is not as explicit, nor as controversial, as that wielded by the Blood Priests, they are a storytelling problem. One that I may have to address sooner rather than later in season three.
Balancing the humanity and inhumanity of the Blood Magic system is one of the most challenging, and rewarding, parts of writing this series. Introducing the ‘witches’ was a perfect opportunity to explore that, and hearkens back to ideas of the druids as traveling healers and wise elders. Unlike the Blood Priests, the witches do not use other people’s blood to power their magic, most of their abilities are quite mundane in nature, and perhaps most interestingly, they are expected to one day commit suicide in order to effect a miracle. The dynamic of that last point is especially fascinating to me, and was wonderful to explore. I thought, when I established it in Witch’s Heir, that it would be obvious to readers that our witch would have to do that at some point, but apparently readers were taken by surprise by her death in Contaminant. I take a perverse kind of pleasure in that, knowing that a side character’s death could be both a surprise and have an impact on readers, even though I was sad to kill her off, too.
I’d wanted to write the Merolate-Pifecha interaction for a long time. When I did the first ever drafting for Blood Magic, the third episode was intended to be a two part episode involving a conflict between Merolate and a larger, slightly more advanced, military civilization with elephants and pterodactyl-like creatures. That episode was lost during an unfortunate hard drive incident, and but the idea remained. It evolved significantly, though, and was merged with my fascination with telling a story of how the “Prime Directive” would look from the perspective of the “primitive” party, to become the Pifechan episodes. Part of me wishes that I’d been able to work more Pifechan perspectives into the writing, especially of the finale, but it just didn’t work for the plot. The idea of a society in the midst of an industrial revolution interacting with a society that is medieval in nature but possesses magic was fun to explore, and I hope came off as realistic. I put a lot of thought into the historical background and underpinnings of that interaction, but couldn’t work it too explicitly into the story, since even the dragons don’t know all of it. If a dragon, a Blood Priest, a Merolate historian, and a Pifechan historian sat down together, maybe they could figure it out, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
Now that I’ve finished the second season, I intend to take a quick break from Blood Magic – I’m far enough ahead with the writing that I can afford to do that – before diving into season three. Season three is going to be exciting, and a lot of going to happen. I really hope that you enjoyed season two, and I look forward to exploring season three with you.